a collegiate education presented a problem for African
Americans in Texas prior to court-ordered racial
integration which began in the 1950s.
The late C.L. Simon of Nacogdoches
had to travel to the University of Colorado to obtain an advanced
degree, but in Texas, especially East
Texas, Wiley College in Marshall
and Jarvis Christian College in Hawkins were about the only options
for undergraduate instruction.
Efforts by the Negro Disciples of Christ in Texas
and the Christian Woman's Board of Missions that eventually resulted
in the founding of Jarvis Christian College began in 1904. The Disciples
contributed $1,000 and the Woman's Board $10,000, and, most significantly,
Major James Jones Jarvis and his wife, Ida Van Zandt Jarvis, contributed
456 acres for the school's campus.
Jarvis Christian College began with elementary instruction in 1912,
progressed to secondary—high school—classes until 1927, when a junior
college curriculum began, and finally senior college classes began
in 1937. High school classes had been discontinued by 1939.
Jarvis remained affiliated with the Disciples of Christ until 1958,
and was the last survivor of twelve institutions in the South for
African Americans with a similar affiliation.
Beginning in 1958, an independent elected board succeeded trustees
appointed by the Department of Institutional Missions of the United
Christian Missionary Society in governance of the college, but the
influence of the denomination remains.
Thomas Buchanan Frost served as the first superintendent of the school,
and Albert Berry was its first principal, but James Nelson Ervin became
Jarvis' first president.
The college was accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges
and Universities and its teacher preparation approved by the Texas
Education Agency in 1969.
African American students have multiple educational opportunities
in the twenty-first century, but many still prefer a "predominantly
black" educational experience, once their grandparent's only choice.
C.L. Simon made the most of his Jarvis experience—he became the first
African American to serve on the Nacogdoches City Commission.
P. McDonald, PhD
August 20, 2007 column
A syndicated column in over 70 East Texas newspapers
by Archie P. McDonald