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1551Re: [Generation-Mixed] ROBERT REED CHURCH, JR. (1885-1952)

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  • j s
    Nov 1, 2006
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      I 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 Walter
      Best Regards,
      Lynne


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