Spotlight on 'Modecai Wyatt Johnson'
- Mordecai Wyatt JohnsonDr. Mordecai Wyatt Johnson was the very first
president of Howard University who was also
of the African-American Ethnic grouping.
He served at Howard in this capacity
for more than three decadesDate of birth: December 12, 1890
Place of birth: Paris, Tennessee
Mordecai Johnson was born on December 12, 1890
in a small Southern town, Paris, Tennessee
to former slaves, Wyatt and Carolyn.
His father was both a minister and a mill
worker, and was also a man who set rigorous
standards for his son's chores and behavior, and
his mother worked was a "domestic" employee.
After having completed his grammar school
education, he then enrolled in Nashville's
Academy of Roger Williams University in 1903.
The school was destroyed by fire in 1905.
Mordecai completed the term at
the Howe Institute in Memphis.
Later that year, he entered the preparatory
department of Atlanta Baptist College where
he completed his high school studies.
During his college years, from 1907-1911,
he was strongly influenced by Atlanta
University President John Hope color.
Mordecai Johnson played football and
tennis, was on the debating team, and
sang in the glee club and chorus.
He was appointed to the faculty, where he taught
history, economics, and English for two years.
He served as acting dean for
the 1911-1912 academic year.
Mordecai studied at the University of Chicago
during the summers of 1912 and 1913, and
received a second bachelor of arts degree in 1913.
He matriculated at the Rochester
Theological Seminary from 1913-1916.
Mordecai became the pastor of the Second Baptist
Church in Mumford, New York while at Rochester.
In 1916, he married Anna Ethelyn
Gardner of Augusta, Georgia.
They had three sons and two daughters.
Mordecai was a secretary of the International
Committee of the YMCA, working in the
southwestern field from 1916-1917.
A year later, he became pastor of the First
Baptist Church of Charleston, West Virginia,
and established a reputation as a brilliant
orator and "community organizer."
In 1922 Harvard University presented to Mordecai
the degree of Master of Science in theology.
In 1923 Howard University presented to him
the honorary degree of Doctor of Divinity.
A similar degree was conferred upon him
by the Gammon Theological Seminar in 1928.
In 1926, Mordecai was appointed as the thirteenth
president of Howard University, and, at that time,
he, thus, also became the very first president
of Howard University who was also of
the African-American Ethnic grouping.
On June 10, 1927, Dr. Johnson
delivered his Inauguaral Address
as President of Howard University.
He held that position for thirty-four years.
Dr. Mordecai Johnson died in the year 1976.
A book entitled, 'Mordecai Johnson, the Man
and his Message' has been written about his life.
Howard University is a part of the nationally registered
Network of the HIBMCU Educational Institutions.