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William Vernon: Object of Jim Crow attempt at U.S. Capitol: 1909 | by Washington Area Spark
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William Vernon: Object of Jim Crow attempt at U.S. Capitol: 1909

William Tecumseh Vernon was an American educator, minister and bishop in the African Methodist Episcopal Church, president of Western University beginning in 1896, and Register of the Treasury from 1906 to 1911.

 

All US currency printed during his tenure carries the signature of William T. Vernon.

 

While serving as register (later the Public Debt Service which, in 1940, became the Bureau of the Public Debt), Vernon and a companion entered and sat at a table near Rep. John Nance Garner (D.-Tx.) and Rep. Martin Dies Sr. (D.-Tx.) May 13, 1909.

 

According to the New York Daily Tribune,

 

“Mr. Garner and his companion had given their order for food, when Mr. Vernon and his friend entered. At another table the three other Southern members were preparing to eat. The entrance of the register was greeted with protests, and when he had seated himself Mr. Garner announced that his order would have to be cancelled if Negroes were allowed in the restaurant.”

 

“He was followed by his colleagues, and they immediately went to the proprietor, to whom they expressed themselves in unmeasured terms. He declared that he was powerless to interfere and advised that the Speaker be consulted.”

 

“Mr. Garner heard from L. White Busbey, the Speaker’s secretary, that the restaurant was a public one, and that if Mr. Garner and his friends desired privacy they should go to the dining room set apart for member of Congress.”

 

“This information served to cool the anger of the Southerners, although there are still mutterings about a boycott on the restaurant.”

 

The effort and making the restaurant Jim Crow failed at that time , but was successful a few years later.

 

Vernon was briefly reappointed as register by William Howard Taft in 1910, but the president needed the position for his own patronage. Vernon accepted a federal appointment as the Supervisor of Indian and Negro Schools on a reservation in Oklahoma, newly admitted as a state combining the Indian and Oklahoma territories.

 

After being consecrated as a bishop in 1920, Vernon soon left for South Africa, where he worked as a missionary in the Transvaal district for four years.

 

The AME Church had been successful in building congregations among the indigenous peoples in South Africa. As early as the late nineteenth century, it was helping students come to the United States for college.

 

At the 1932 AME General Conference, members brought charges against three bishops: William Tecumseh Vernon, Joshua Jones, and William Decker Johnson. Ultimately, Vernon and Jones were suspended from their duties for misuse of conference funds.

 

In addition, there were complaints that Vernon had been too close to some of his women parishioners. This was at a period when there had been several scandals among senior clergy in the AME and other churches, and its prestige was declining..

 

In 1933 during the Great Depression, after the A.M.E. Church withdrew its support from Western University, the state provided funding.

 

The governor appointed Vernon as head of the industrial department. He appointed a strong faculty and succeeded in getting its accreditation restored before stepping down in 1936.

 

--Partially excerpted from Wikipedia

 

For a detailed blog post on the fight against Jim Crow at the U.S. Capitol restaurants, see washingtonspark.wordpress.com/2018/02/26/origins-of-the-c...

 

For related images, see flic.kr/s/aHsmcArGZz

 

The photographer is unknown. The image is from Mary Helm’s “From Darkness to Light” published in 1911.

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Taken circa 1911