1551Re: [Generation-Mixed] ROBERT REED CHURCH, JR. (1885-1952)
- Nov 1, 2006I don't know - do you think he has any white in him? ;P
TLBaker <tlbaker1@...> wrote:ROBERT REED CHURCH, JR. (1885-1952)
Robert R. Church, Jr., a political leader of-color in
Memphis and the nation, was born on October 26, 1885,
at the family home, 384 South Lauderdale Street, in Memphis.
He was one of the two children of
Robert R. and Anna (Wright) Church.
His sister was Annette E. Church.
He was educated at Mrs. Julia Hooks's kindergarten,
by private tutors, and at parochial schools in Memphis.
Further education was obtained at Morgan Park Military
Academy, Morgan Park,Illinois, and Berlin and the
Parkard School of Business, New York.
He completed his education by spending
two years learning banking on Wall Street.
Robert Church, Jr., returned to Memphis, where he
became the manager of Church's Park and Auditorium.
He later became cashier of the Solvent Savings
Bank and Trust Company, founded by his father,
succeeding him as president after his death.
Within a few years, he resigned this position to
manage the family's extensive real estate holdings.
On July 26,1911, Robert Church, Jr., married Sara
P. Johnson of Washington, D.C., in that city.
They became the parents of one child, Sara Roberta.
In 1916, Robert Church, Jr., founded and
financed the Lincoln League in Memphis,
which was established to organize the masses
of black citizens to register and vote.
It was his conviction that the ballot was the medium
through which citizens of-color could obtain Civil Rights.
The Lincoln League organized voter registration
drives, voting schools, and paid poll taxes for voters.
Within a few months, the League had registered 10,000 voters.
A Lincoln League Ticket was entered in the 1916 election,
which included a black candidate for the Congress.
The ticket lost, but it established the Lincoln League as
a viable and respected political force in Memphis; the League
later expanded into a statewide and national organization.
In 1917, Church organized the Memphis Branch of the
National Association for the Advancement of Colored
People (NAACP), the first branch in Tennessee.
In 1919, he was elected to the national board of directors
for the NAACP, representing fourteen southern states.
There were two factions of the Republican party in
Memphis during Church's lifetime: one labeled by the
daily press as the "Lily-White" (all white) wing of the
party, and the other led by Church and called by the
daily newspaper the "Black and Tans" (Negro and White).
Robert Church, Jr., was a delegate from Memphis to
eight successive Republican National Conventions
from 1912-1940, having to battle each time with the
White faction opposed to black participation in the party.
Since Church's organization supplied the votes which
carried the Republicans to victory in Memphis and
Shelby County, he, as leader, was consulted by
national party officials about federal patronage.
Because the political climate in the South during
his lifetime had not reached the point where he
could recommend qualified black candidates for
U.S.Postmaster, federal judge, U.S. Attorney,
etc., he very carefully selected and recommended
for those positions White candidates whom he
thought were qualified men and who would perform
their duties fairly and justly in the best
interests of all segments of the population.
He was requested frequently to
recommend individuals for federal
jobs in other southern states.
He was consulted about political strategy by
Republican Presidents and other high party
officials so often that Time magazine
referred to Church as the "roving
dictator of the Lincoln Belt."
In the 1920s, when Robert Church, Jr., was at the height
of his political influence, E.H. Crump, the Memphis
Democratic leader, had not reached his political zenith.
Church and Crump had totally disparate
political philosophies and maintained
autonomous political organizations.
When it became necessary to discuss political
procedures with the city administration, such
as primary or general elections, county
conventions, etc., Church wasrepresented
by attorneys from his group, usually
Josiah T. Settle, Jr., a Negro, and
George Klepper and Baily Walsh,
both of whom were white.
Since it was not possible for a Republican to be
elected mayor of Memphis, Church occasionally
supported Democratic candidates he thought
would be fair to Negroes, such as
Watkins Overton, a family friend.
In 1940, when it appeared that Wendell Wilkie,
the Republican candidate for President,
might defeat incumbent President Franklin
D. Roosevelt, in order to prevent Church's
return to power (should the Republicans win
the election), the city administration moved
to destroy Church's political base by seizing
his real estate holdings, allegedly for back taxes.
At the same time, the city administration moved
against two prominent Church associates:
Dr. J.B.Martin, owner of the South Memphis
Drug Store on south Florida Street, and Elmer
Atkinson, proprietor of a cafe on Beale Street.
City policemen, stationed at the front entrances
of the men's establishments, searched all
customers who entered, causing Martin and
Atkinson to sustain tremendous financial losses.
Atkinson had to close his cafe.
Martin and Atkinson moved to Chicago, and Church
established himself in Washington, D.C. Church Park
and Auditorium was renamed "Beale Avenue Auditorium,"
and the family home was burned, ostensibly to test
some of the City's new fire-fighting equipment.
At the invitation of his friend, A. Philip Randolph,
the distinguished Negro labor leader, Church accepted
membership on the board of directors of the National
Council For A Permanent Fair Employment Practices
Committee (now known as Equal Employment Opportunity)
and worked tirelessly for the enactment of such legislation.
In 1944, he organized and was elected chairman of the
Republican American Committee, a group of 200 Negro
Republican leaders from thirty-two states, who united
to pressure Republican senators and congressmen to enact
fair employment and other Civil Rights' legislation.
Church visited Memphis in 1952, after attending the Republican
State Convention in Nashville, to promote General Dwight
D. Eisenhower as the Republican candidate for President.
He was talking Republican politics when he
died of a fatal heart attack on April 17, 1952.Roberta Church and Ronald WalterBest Regards,Lynne
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