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American Family attorney leads campaign to honor Wisconsin civil rights champion Vel Phillips


Dave Endres, corporate legal counsel with American Family, chairs the Vel Phillips Task Force, which leads the effort to have a statue of Phillips, a trailblazing African American woman, on the Wisconsin Capitol grounds. 

Dave Endres, corporate legal counsel with American Family, is chair of the Vel Phillips Task Force, the group leading the effort to have a statue of Phillips, a trailblazing African American woman, on the Wisconsin Capitol grounds. When completed, it will be the first statue of an African American woman at any state capitol in the U.S.Dave Endres

Endres became involved in 2020 with the effort to recognize Phillips, the first woman and person of color elected to statewide office in Wisconsin and in the country, after winning her race for Secretary of State in 1978.

Phillips had previously been the first African American woman to graduate from the University of Wisconsin Law School, the first to serve on the Milwaukee Common Council, and the first to be a judge in the state of Wisconsin. She died in 2018.

The Boys & Girls Clubs of Dane County and Phillips’ son, Michael Phillips, are also both on the task force and have been very involved with the effort. 

“Vel Phillips was a civil rights pioneer and a trailblazer. Her accomplishments, especially considering the significant obstacles she faced as an African American woman in the ‘60s and ’70s, are remarkable. She is beyond deserving of this recognition,” Endres said.

A rendering of the Vel Phillips statue at the Wisconsin Capitol. Installation of the statue was approved late last year by the Wisconsin board charged with overseeing the Capitol grounds. Endres continues leading the task force as it works with the artist and raises funds for the statue and the Vel Phillips Endowment to help students of color in Milwaukee and throughout Wisconsin go to college. The endowment is administered by the Boys & Girls Clubs of Dane County.

“I have two daughters and I hope to show them that if there’s an opportunity out there and you feel it’s the right thing to do, go do it,” Endres said. “Don’t be intimidated by the obstacles and things you’re going to have to overcome. Fight for things that are really important, that really matter to our communities and to our society - that’s the lesson of Vel Phillips.”

The statue will be located at the corner of West Main and South Carroll streets, on the south side of the Capitol in Madison. The group hopes to install the statue in 2023.

The American Family Insurance Dreams Foundation is donating $25,000 in support of the Vel Phillips statue.Rosie Rios

 American Family board member champions women’s representation
American Family Board Member and former Treasurer of the United States, Rosie Rios, through her initiative EMPOWERMENT2026, is also committed to facilitating the physical recognition of historical American women through representation like statues in public places and by working with Google’s Creative Lab to use augmented reality to teach kids about noteworthy women. 

Her work attracted national attention earlier this year as legislation she initiated as U.S. Treasurer led to January’s inclusion of African American poet Maya Angelou on the quarter. Four more women will be placed on quarters later this year including astronaut Sally Ride and Wilma Mankiller, the first female principal chief of the Cherokee Nation. 


About the American Family Insurance group
Based in Madison, Wisconsin, American Family Insurance has been serving customers since 1927. We inspire, protect and restore dreams through our insurance products, exceptional service from our agency owners and employees, community investment and creative partnerships to address societal challenges. We act on our belief in diversity and inclusion by constantly evolving to meet customer needs and preferences. American Family Insurance group is the nation’s 13th-largest property/casualty insurance group, ranking No. 232 on the Fortune 500 list. The group sells American Family-brand products, primarily through exclusive agency owners in 19 states. The American Family Insurance group also includes CONNECT, powered by American Family Insurance, The GeneralHomesite and Main Street America Insurance. Across these companies the group has more than 13,500 employees nationwide.