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William T. Vernon

African American educator, A.M.E. Bishop.  Born: July 11, 1871, Lebanon, Missouri. Died: July 25, 1944, Kansas City, Kansas.

Born in 1871 in Missouri, William Tecumseh Vernon became a minister and an educator at Western University in Kansas. Appointed the institution's president in 1896 at the age of 25, Vernon was known as an for his leadership and accomplished speechmaking. During his tenure, Western University expanded its curriculum and gained financial support from the Kansas Legislature.

While at Western, he wrote The Upbuilding of a Race: or The Rise of a Great People, a compilation of sermons, addresses and writings on education, the race question and public affairs (1904).

He received much attention for crossing racial lines when he spoke at the Kansas Day Club celebration, a traditionally white Republican affair. President Theodore Roosevelt appointed Vernon Register of the United States Treasury in 1906. He was reappointed to that position by President William Taft in 1912, but he left the federal service in that year to return to the ministry and school administration. 

In 1920 he was elected bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Church and assigned to the Transvaal district in South Africa for four years. He returned to Western University in 1933, when Governor Alfred Landon appointed him head of the industrial department. Vernon retired five years later and died in 1944.

Entry: Vernon, William T.

Author: Kansas Historical Society

Author information: The Kansas Historical Society is a state agency charged with actively safeguarding and sharing the state's history.

Date Created: May 2009

Date Modified: January 2013

The author of this article is solely responsible for its content.