North American Scholar
LOVINGGOOD, Reuben Shannon
B.A., Clark College (Atlanta), 1890; attended summer session at the University of Chicago, 1912-1913.
- Professional Experience:
Editor and part owner of the Atlanta Times, 1890-1892; principal of the Slater School, Birmingham, Alabama, 1892-5: prof. Greek & Latin, Wiley College (Marshall, TX), 1895-1900; president, Sam Huston College (Austin TX), 1900-1916; member of the General Committee of the Colored Methodist Episcopal Church and representative of its Seventh Episcopal District; member of the Texas Epworth League; secretary of the Freedman’s Aid Society and Southern Education Society; long-time member and president of the Colored Teachers State Association of Texas, 1905-1906; Agard–Lovinggood Auditorium and Lovinggood Rembrance Day at Huston-Tillotson College (Austin, TX).
“The Part of the Teacher in the Redemption of the Race,” in The United Negro: His Problems and His Progress, (eds.) I. Garland Penn and J.W.E. Bowen (Atlanta: D.E. Luther Publishing, 1902): 419-420; “A Negro to the Negroes,” The Religious Telescope (November 11, 1903): 1417; The Negro Seer: His Preparation and Mission, Commencement Address, Delivered June 4, 1907 (Prairie View, TX, Prairie View State Normal and Industrial College, 1907); “The Religious Outlook of the Negro Race,” Christian Education (May-August, 1909): 14-16; “What the Church Has Done in the Way of Negro Education,” and “The Colored Membership Against the Saloon,” in Methodism and the Negro, (ed.) Isaac Lemuel Thomas (New York: Eaton & Mains, 1910): 73-75, 290-293; “Sam Huston College, Austin Texas,” in An Era of Progress and Promise, 1863-1910, ed. William N. Hartshorn and George W. Penniman, (Boston: Priscilla Publishing Company, 1910): 185-187; “A Black Man’s Appeal to His White Brothers,” Christian Education (August, 1911): 11-14; The Value of Education for Negro Girls (Cincinnati, OH: Women’s Home Missionary Society, n.d.); “A Colored Man’s New Year’s Prayer for Himself and for His People,” Christian Education (February, 1913); “Why Hic, Haec, Hoc for the Negro?” in Penman Lovingood (sic), The Negro Seer: The Life and Work of Dr. R. S. Lovinggood, Educator-Churchman-Race Leader, (Lovingood (sic) Company, Compton, CA, 1963): 69-79.
Lovinggood was born in extreme poverty in Walhalla, South Carolina near the Blue Ridge Mountains. After his father’s death, his mother Leah (n.d. -1916) remarried. Unable to attend public school, his only training came from the Freedman’s Aid Society of the Methodist Church. At the age of 18, having walked seventy-one miles, he entered Clark University in Atlanta, Georgia. Lovinggood worked his way through school as a janitor and general factotum and in 1890 at age 26 he graduated with honors, having completed the classical course with some training in carpentry. Among his teachers was William Henry Crogman (1831-1941), African-American professor of Greek and long-time member of the American Philological Association. His son, the composer, Penman Lovingood [sic] (1895-1993) recalled in his memoir, The Negro Seer: The Life and Work of Dr. R. S. Lovinggood: Educator, Churchman, Race Leader (1963) his father telling him “how he would wash a shirt at night so that it could dry by morning. He had no others.”
He was editor and part owner of Atlanta Times newspaper from 1890 to 1892. After selling his interest, however, he moved to Birmingham, Alabama, to teach at the Cameron School. There he married Lillie G. England (1869-1896), a fellow teacher, on December 26, 1894. In 1895 he was elected chair of Greek and Latin at Wiley College in Marshall, Texas. Shortly after their arrival Lillie died after giving birth to their first born son, Penman. Lovinggood focused on his academic work teaching Greek and Latin, and in the spring of 1900 he wrote an essay entitled “Why Hic, Haec, Hoc for the Negro?” It was a rebuttal to those who thought that students of African descent did not need Latin and Greek. He said: “When I came to Wiley [C]ollege five years ago I found a majority of the students averse to taking a College Course. When I suggested the full course they asked me why? Their aversion no doubt stems from the spirit of the times, which for a decade, has prescribed, for the most part, industrial education for [N]egroes. The assertion has been made again and again, that those who established colleges for Negroes made a mistake. My class [in] beginning Latin this year numbers forty. Am I making a mistake in instructing these young people in the ancient language of the Romans? …[O]ur young men and women…should have whatever they need to meet their requirements. Even a factory needs the brains of trained people not only at the top as it has always been, but brains and training are now called for throughout the industrial world. Not only training of the hands, but the mind as well. This is the trend of the item in which we live. To train all [N]egroes to hand work only is to condemn a people to be menials permanently. God we believe did not intend this to be, and we believe that most white Americans do not either.” In his 1907 commencement address he referred to Terence and mentioned a quotation attributed to John C. Calhoun that “if he could find a Negro who knew Greek syntax, I would believe the Negro was a human being and ought to be treated as a man.”
In the fall of 1900 Lovinggood accepted the presidency of Sam Huston College (known today as Huston-Tillotson University) which had just opened in Austin, TX with a donation made by Sam Huston, a wealthy landowner from Marengo, IA. The “entire college campus” was “a basement of an unfinished building” and home to chickens and hogs. He and his new wife and later school librarian Mattie Alice Townsend (1883-1978) set to work and enrollments grew. By April of 1914 the school had 17 teachers, and listed as requirements 4 years of Latin, and 2 of either Spanish or Greek. Lovinggood was hailed for his leadership and commitment to higher education. Both Huston and Tillotson, which were merged in 1952, maintained classical programs for many years.
Lovinggood had chronic stomach problems which were due, according to his son, Penman, to a harsh “rural diet and other hardships. . . plus the cares of Samuel Huston College.” He died at age 53. The cause of death was, according to the Chicago Defender, Bright’s disease. He was buried on December 19 in section 4B of the colored section at Oaklawn Cemetery, Austin, TX. In 2004 the Texas Classical Association established the Reuben Shannon Lovinggood Scholarship for Teaching Materials to honor their fellow classicist and pioneer Afro-Texan educator.
n.a., “Pres. Lovinggood Dies,” Chicago Defender (30 December 1916): 9; n.a., “Funeral Services of Dr. R.S. Lovinggood, President of Samuel Huston College, Austin, Texas,” Austin History Center, Austin Public Library, Austin, TX; Abigail, R. Matt and Janice L. Sumler-Edmund, “Lovinggood, Reuben Shannon,” https://tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/flo87; Culp, Daniel (ed.), “Prof. R. S. Lovinggood, A.M.,” in Twentieth Century Negro Literature, (1902) 48; Haley, James T. (ed.), “Lillie England Lovinggood,” Afro-American Encyclopaedia; Or the Thoughts, Doings, and Sayings of the Race,(1895) 270; Hartshorn, William N. “Samuel Huston College, Austin, Texas,” An Era of Progress and Promise 1863-1910 (1910) 185-7; Heintze, Michael R., Private Black Colleges in Texas, 1865-1954 (1985) 59-60; 117; Lovinggood, Penman, The Negro Seer: The Life and Work of Dr. R. S. Lovinggood Educator- Churchman- Race Leader (1963); Mason, M.C.B., “From the Cabin to the College Presidency,” Epworth Herald (2 February 1907): 917; Maveety, P.J., “The Story of a Negro Boy– R.S. Lovinggood,” Christian Republic (June, 1910): 9-10; Ronnick, Michele Valerie, “Lovinggood, Reuben Shannon,” African American National Biography, Oxford African American Studies Center http://www.oxfordaasc.com/article/opr/t0001/e5418?hi=0&highlight=1&from=quick&pos=1, Stowell, Jay S., J.W. Thinks Black (Methodist Book Concern, 1922): 106; Texas Classical Association, TCA Scholarships, website www.txclassics.org/.
Image credit: D.W. Culp (ed.). Twentieth Century Negro Literature or a Cyclopedia of Thought on the Vital Topics Relating to the American Negro by One Hundred of America’s Greatest Negroes. J.L. Nichols & Co.: Toronto, Naperville (IL), and Atlanta, 1902.
- Author: Michele Valerie Ronnick