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HISTORICAL – Conroe Normal and Industrial College: Spirit of the Golden Bell


Conroe-Normal-&-Industrial-College-(print-of-original-building)

Print of Conroe Normal and Industrial College’s original building.

 

Conroe College sign and bell.

Conroe College sign and bell.

By Robin Navarro Montgomery, Ph.D.

In post-Civil War Texas, segregation cast a pall over efforts of African-Americans to educate themselves. In those few schools for African-Americans in existence, most teachers were white Christians. At the beginning of the 20th century, Prairie View A&M was the only major university for blacks. Seeking at that time to enhance the educational capacities of African-Americans was an enterprising individual named Dr. Jimmie Johnson. The place he chose to establish his Normal and Industrial College was Conroe.

Dr. Johnson and his wife, Chaney, labored mightily to raise funds for their chosen work, meeting success in April 1903. For three hard years, the Johnsons taught, worked and built on to their creation. In 1906, Dr. Johnson, exhausted, sold his college to the Baptist District Association, which appointed Dr. David Abner to the presidency,

Dr. Abner was a brilliant choice, because he came with a marvelous record as a unifier. He was the first graduate of Bishop College, started in Marshall, Texas in 1881 by the American Baptist Home Mission Society. Unhappy that Bishop College was established in East Texas, in 1884 the Guadalupe Baptist Association founded Guadalupe College in Seguin. Dr. Abner, the Bishop graduate, helped ease the tension between these two schools when he assumed the presidency of Guadalupe College. He left the latter position for Conroe, bringing with him students and personnel from both East and West Central Texas.

In 1919, succeeding Dr. Abner to the presidency was Chicago University-educated Dr. William Johnson, who served until 1946. The tenures of Drs. Abner and Johnson were characterized by building the infrastructure and enhancing curriculum offerings at the Conroe College. Unfortunately, a magnificent five-story structure housing female students burned.

During these years plagued by the Depression and World War, students were obedient and disciplined. Boys worked largely in the field at such tasks as tending hogs and growing vegetables, while girls worked inside. The girls were required to wear black skirts and white middy blouses to classes, while the boys wore formal attire, coat and tie.

The last major building erected on the college grounds was the Calhoun Edwards building, during the tenure of acting president, the Reverend J. S. Curry, 1963-67. The building yet stands, majestic. Echoing its storied past, the marquee in front yet reads in bold letters, “Conroe College- Welcome American Baptist Convention of Texas.”

Still gracing the front lawn, atop a pillar of white and exquisite stone, is a golden bell. Reflective of the golden past, the bell marks the spirit of enterprise and adventure that was Conroe Normal and Industrial College.

Author Robin Navarro Montgomery, Ph.D., is a member of the Montgomery and Walker County Historical Commissions, chair of the latter and author of numerous books and articles.
Contact him at zippoboo@aol.com.

 

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The Montgomery County Historical Commission provides the content for this page.

For information on the commission and its efforts, visit montgomerycountyhistoricalcommission.com.

 


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