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  Texas : Features : Columns : All Things Historical :

Jarvis Christian College

by Archie P. McDonald
Archie McDonald Ph.D.
Obtaining 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.


© Archie P. McDonald
All Things Historical

August 20, 2007 column
A syndicated column in over 70 East Texas newspapers
This column is provided as a public service by the East Texas Historical Association. Archie P. McDonald is director of the Association and author of more than 20 books on Texas.

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