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Wordless Wednesday: Roger Williams University

Roger Williams University of Nashville, Tennessee

rogerwilliamsuniversitySource: Richings, G. F. Evidences of Progress Among Colored People. Philadelphia: G.S. Ferguson Co, 1905. [Available via Google Books


Dr. Arthur M. Townsend

Just a few days ago, I blogged about finding the marriage notice for Dr. A.M. Townsend, a graduate of Meharry Medical College. The other day, while browsing the NYPL Digital Images collection, I happened upon a picture of him. You can click here for further details, but this image appears in the book “The Negro in Medicine” published in 1912 by John Kenney.


I decided to take a look for Mr. & Mrs. Townsend in the census and locate them as follows:

1910 – Found them living in Nashville, though I can’t make out the street name. Interestingly enough, Arthur’s name is enumerated as “James M.” – he is 35 years old. Willa is listed as being 31 years old. They indicate they have been married 8 years, which matches the information from Meharry News. His occupation is listed as a doctor of medicine. Willa has one child and that one child is living – he is Arthur M. Jr. and is six years old. They also have staying with them a female cousin, Flora Darrell who is 20 years old. [Link to full image if you have an Ancestry.com membership] [1]

1920 – He and wife Willa are living in Memphis, Shelby County, TN. He is 44, she is 39 and they have Arthur M. Townsend Jr. who is 16 years old. His job is listed as Minister of a church, and she as a private school teacher. They reside at 1044 Mississippi Avenue. Also in the residence with them are cousins Floy J. Johnson (35 year old male), Lee A. Johnson (35 year old male), and Sallie Darrell (24 year old female). Accompanying the family is a 14 year old female boarder named Bessie Terrell. Floy is a teacher, Lee is a physician who was born in Mississippi, and Sallie is a teacher as well. [Link to full image if you have an Ancestry.com membership] [2]

1930 – He and wife Willa are living at 738 Cedar Street in Nashville. He is 54 years old, she is 49. They indicate they have been married 27 years, which matches the date that the Meharry News reported for them in 1902. His occupation is listed as Medical Physician. [Link to full image if you have an Ancestry subscription] [3]

Some additional web searching reveals additional information about the family. Arthur’s middle name was Melvin [4]. In 1910, he was president of the Rock City Academy of Medicine here in Nashville and the organization held annual summer clinics to provide free medical care for blacks to circumvent blacks going to white medical facilities where they believed blacks were subject to experimental treatments [5].

The online version of Profiles of African-Americans in Tennessee has a great biography of Dr. Townsend and details his accomplishments, including that he was President of Roger Williams University from 1913 to 1918 [6].

He died April 20, 1959 and I learned from an obituary I located in the Chicago Defender that the cause was a heart attack [7]. I also learned from the obit that the reason he went to Memphis was to pastor at the Metropolitan Baptist Church. He moved to Memphis in 1918, and returned to Nashville in 1920. Over 1,000 people attended his funeral and he is buried in Greenwood Cemetery. I’ve searched FindAGrave and do not find him listed, so I’m off to add him.

[1] 1910; Census Place: Nashville Ward 19, Davidson, Tennessee; Roll: T624_1496; Page: 7A; Enumeration District: 68; Image: 380.
[2] 1920;Census Place: Memphis Ward 14, Shelby, Tennessee; Roll: T625_1764; Page: 8A; Enumeration District: 150; Image: 236.
[3] 1930; Census Place: Nashville, Davidson, Tennessee; Roll: 2239; Page: 6B; Enumeration District: 17; Image: 907.0
[4] Who’s Who in Colored America: A Biographical Dictionary of Notable Living Persons of Negro Descent in America. New York, N.Y.: Who’s Who in Colored America Corp, 1927. [Link to Google Books snippet]
[5] Ward, Thomas J. Black Physicians in the Jim Crow South. Fayetteville: The University of Arkansas Press, 2003. [Link to Google Books preview]
[6] Lovett, Bobby L., and Linda T. Wynn. Profiles of African Americans in Tennessee. Nashville, Tenn: Annual Local Conference on Afro-American Culture and History, 1996. [Available online]
[7] 1.000 at Townsend, Sr. Funeral. Chicago Defender. 28 Apr 1959.

Roger Williams Rally

Nashville Globe – 22 Feb 1907

The Women’s Baptist Missionary Union will hold their first quarterly meeting Friday, March 1, at the Second Baptist Church, corner of Ninth avenue and Stevens street, Rev. G.B. Taylor, pastor. A special Educational Rally has been planned on this occasion for the rebuilding of Roger Williams University. We are calling on every loyal Baptist woman and friend to help us. We want $100.00; we can have it. We are told to attempt great things for God and expect great things from Him. We are asking each Missionary Society to give us $10.00, and each church where there is no society, $10.00, because they haven’t a society. Third Avenue Baptist Church Missionary Society will lead off in this, who will follow? “But whose hath this world’s goods and seeth his brother have need and shuteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?” (1 Jno. 3:17). The following program will be rendered:

Afternoon – 3 o’clock.
Song – Coronation -Union
Scripture Reading – Rev. G.B. Taylor.
Invocation – Rev. J.L. Harding
Song – Faith is the Victory – Union
Paper – Missions – Miss A. Pace
Duet – Misses Claybrooks and McIntosh
Paper – Need of Christian Education – Mrs. Wm. Haynes
Solo – Rev. J.C. Fields

Evening – 8 o’clock
Song – My Faith Looks Up to Thee – Union
Scripture Reading on Faith
Invocation – Rev. Goodall
Selection – By Sylvan Street Church Choir
Remarks – Rev. Wm. Haynes, President of the State Convention
Duet – Misses Neal and Smith
Recitation – “Little Joy” – M. Dickerson
Solo – Mrs. J. Henderson
Talk – Rev. J. Kell
Solo – Miss Ella Hendry
Talk – Rev. Slaughter
Selection – By Kayne Avenue Baptist Church Choir
Talk – Rev. C.H. Clark
Selection – First Baptist Church Choir East Nashville
Talk – Rev. Porter
Selection – Second Baptist Church Choir

The above programs will be carried out promptly. Please be present at 3 pm and 8pm. All friends are most cordially invited to be present and help in this special effort.

Mrs. M.H. Flowers, President
Mrs. Carrie Dickerson, Sec’y
Evening program Master of Ceremonies, Rev. E.W.D. Isaac

News of Nashville – November 10, 1917

    From the Chicago Defender November 10, 1917

  • President G.W. Hubbard of Meharry Medical College has returned to the city after a visit to New York, where he attended the meeting of the National Association of Dental Faculties
  • “The Model Home” was the subject of Rev. W. S. Ellington’s discourse last Sunday morning.
  • An attendance of seventy-five was reported for the Meharry Bible class at St. Paul’s A.M.E. church Sunday
  • E.L. Dunnings, A.B., senior medic, Meharry Medical College, was the guest of F.J. Myles, the Defender reporter, at 3528 West End avenue, Saturday.
  • Capt. M.V. Boutte and Lieut. H.A. Cameron left the city for Rockford, Ill. Tuesday night. They will be stationed at Camp Grant and will assist in training the Race men at that place.
  • The various educational institutions were visited during the week by Secretary Fabius of the YMCA international committee, together with two assistants, Belchaer and Evans, in the interest of the student friendship war fund. Fisk, Walden, Roger Williams universities, Meharry Medical College and the A & I State Normal were all visited and several hundred dollars in cash was tendered by the student of each institution.
  • L.E. Brown, the K. of P. secretary of Tennessee, whose home is in Memphis, was in the city this week.
  • Monroe Jordan of Pulaski, Tenn., is a popular junior dentist at Meharry Dental College.
  • Last week 150 men left the city for Camp Meade, Md. Some of Nashville’s best young men answered the country’s call.
  • Miss Hattie S. Hendly, 111 36th avenue South, was a visitor in North Nashville Sunday.
  • Mrs. Nelson G. Merry, wife of the late Rev. Nelson G. Merry, is dead.
  • The Chauffers’ Instructive association will hold a stag on Nov. 15 at the German-American hall.
  • Pearl High School had a dance last Saturday night at the German-American hall.
  • Miss Bertha Stevens and Ethel Mayberry, Louisiana, have returned for study at Roger Williams university.
  • Leonard Jones and Miss Gordon Officer were guests of Roger Williams university in a big cadillac.

Roger Williams Alumni

Roger Williams Alumni
Nashville Globe – February 15, 1907
pg. 3

On account of the heavy fall of snow and sleet in Nashville, which was still much in evidence on last Friday night, only a small crowd was present at the silver tea party at the Spruce Street Baptist Church, which was given by the Alumni and friends of Roger Williams University. An excellent program had been prepared. One of the unique features of the entertainment was a very beautifully decorated banner stretched across the length of the church containing the letters “Roger Williams University” in silver paper. This banner was indeed attractive being the handiwork of Mrs. Carrie Young and Miss Hester O. Brown. Both of these ladies worked diligently to make this entertainment a success.

More than a thousand special appeals and invitations were sent throughout the United States to the address of all the students who once attended the school. It is expected that a substantial response will be received. Miss Brown gratuitously gave her services, rendering some excellent violin solos. Others prominent in the public eye responded likewise. The receipts, while not as large as expected, were encouraging.

Mayfield Notes – 25 Jan 1907

Mayfield, Ky. Notes
Nashville Globe – January 25, 1907
Pg. 5

  • Mr. and Mrs. Keys gave a 6 o’clock dinner in honor of Mr. R. H. Christopher, of Nashville, and Miss Bessie Harris
  • Miss Laculia Dixon, who was at one time a student of Roger Williams University, is one of our most talented musicians.
  • Prof. D. H. Anderson, principal of the High School, and Mrs. A.H. Anderson, his assistant, deserve much credit for the excellent standard kept up in the school.
  • Mr. James Harris, the brick contractor, is in Hopkinsville, Ky., looking after business matters
  • A cotillion was given at the home of Miss Laura Drame in honor of Mr. Robert Christopher, of Nashville. The guests were Misses Laculia Dixon, Bessie Harris, Desserie Mercer, Clara Key Mary Collins – Rowland and Prof. Anderson. A tempting menu was served in courses.

Will Knowles School Be Again Neglected?

Nashville Globe – January 18, 1907
Will Knowles School Be Again Neglected? (pg. 3)

What is to be done with Knowles School, is a question the taxpayers of the third ward are now awaiting an answer from the school board and the city fathers. Long ago it was deemed the most unfit building in the list of buildings now used for school purposes. The city concurred in this and accordingly the building inspector considered it as an unfit house for a school more than two years ago. It seems that the authorities have only paid enough attention to this condemnation to prop up the sides that were leaning and in a falling condition with large scantlings. The residents in that part of Nashville would not be at all surprised if some morning they would awake and find that the building had fallen of its own weight. There can certainly be no complaint that the house has not served its owners well, for like the giant oak of the forest, it has stood the storms of many severe winters, and the beat of some long summers. It has given good account of itself as a school, for it is said that Roger Williams was among the first schools to occupy it, when it was called “The Baptist College.” Some of the old residents say the building has been in active service for about 46 years. When the college was moved the building was used as a district school until the city grew and took up the district, making it a city school, for which services it now appears to be unfit. This is not the only reason the building should be abandoned as a city school. One important thing that renders it unfit is its most undesirable and most awkward location; it borders the territory which it is supposed to serve. It is almost impossible to reach the school with a wagon or buggy even in summer. The pedestrians find they have quite a bargain to get over the rocks and crags – to reach the building.

The citizens of the third ward are on bended knees, asking the authorities to not only remodel the building but to move it on a better street, say either Jackson or Jefferson, between Twelfth avenue, North and Eighteenth avenue North, and Eighteenth avenue, North. Either of these would balance up the distance for children coming from the end of Jefferson street or from the extreme northwest. The neighborhood is adapted to school purposes. There are hundreds of Negro families, all owning their own property, living in the vicinty just described. Move and rebuild Knowles School for Greater Nashville’s sake.

A meeting of parents and taxpayers of the third ward has been called for an early date to take such step as will properly bring the matter up for consideration this spring and summer. Those having children attending the school are being urged to be present, lest they may be forced to take out accident policies for their children attending Knowles School in its present unsafe condition.