In the fall of 1968, LeMoyne and Owen Junior College merged to form LeMoyne-Owen College. At the time of the merger, LeMoyne College was a hundred-year-old institution formed by the American Missionary Association, an arm of the Congregational Church. The Tennessee Baptist Missionary and Educational Convention founded Owen Junior College in Memphis in 1954. Both Colleges brought to the merger a heritage of providing higher education to African American Youth.
The origins of LeMoyne-Owen College extend as far back as 1862 when Lucinda Humphrey, a hospital nurse at Camp Shiloh, was one of the first persons to realize the need to educate African Americans who had escaped to the camps of the Union Armies. Prior to the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation by President Abraham Lincoln, Nurse Humphrey took it upon herself to instruct by candlelight these “contraband Negroes” in small groups in the rudiments of the alphabet.
In 1863, the school opened in Memphis and grew to what was to become known in 1866 as Lincoln School. Destroyed by fire during the race riots which followed the withdrawal of Federal troops in 1866, the school was immediately rebuilt and reopened in 1867 with 150 pupils and six teachers.
When the school encountered financial problems, Dr. Francis Julian LeMoyne, a prominent physician in Washington, Pennsylvania, and a life member of the American Missionary Association, made a gift of $20,000. In the letter which accompanied his gift, Dr. LeMoyne wrote in part: “I would not have the institution confined to any class or color…I would not have it sectarian…As to the designation of the institution I care but little. You can exercise your own judgment in this respect.”
In 1871, the school was named for its benefactor, LeMoyne Normal and Commercial School. Under this title it began its long history of educating African Americans.
LeMoyne College acquired its present site in 1914 when Steele Hall was built on Walker Avenue. It became a junior college in 1924 and finally, was chartered by the State of Tennessee as a four-year degree granting institution in 1934.
Owen College was conceived in 1946 when the Tennessee Baptist Missionary and Educational Convention contracted for the purchase of property on Vance Avenue in Memphis for the purpose of building a Baptist Junior College. A board of trustees was organized in 1953, and the school opened in 1954 as S. A. Owen College, who was a prominent religious and civic leader. Later that year, the name was changed to Owen College.
The first class graduated in 1956 and the college was accredited in 1958.
In 1967, negotiations to merge Owen College with LeMoyne College began, and the merger was accomplished in the fall of 1968. The merged institution brought together two religious traditions, the United Church of Christ and the Baptist Church. Thus, LeMoyne-Owen has been afforded a wider base of support and greater academic strength than its two predecessors.
LeMoyne-Owen’s neatly trimmed campus is located just a short drive from downtown Memphis, a thriving, yet friendly, metropolitan center offering a wide variety of cultural, recreational and social amenities.
The principal buildings on campus include Brownlee Hall, the main administrative facility; Steele Hall, the institution’s oldest building which houses the Humanities Division; C. Arthur Bruce Hall houses the gymnasium, swimming pool and other physical education offices; the Alma C. Hanson Student Center, housing the dining hall, student lounges, recreation and meeting rooms, staff offices, the Little Theater, and the College Bookstore; and the Hollis F. Price Memorial Library.
The Gibson-Orgill Mathematics and Science Learning Center houses faculty offices, laboratories, classrooms, a Natural Science Library, the Academic Skills Center, and the Computer Center. Institutional Advancement, Alumni Relations and Public Relations are located in Sweeney Hall, and the Center for African American Studies houses classrooms, conference rooms and office space.
University Quick Facts
Location: Memphis, TN
Colors: Purple & Old Gold