Goodloe, Don Speed Smith

Don Speed Smith Goodloe
Don Speed Smith Goodloe

Don Speed Smith Goodloe (June 2, 1878 – September 2, 1959), founding principal of what is now Bowie State University, was the first African-American graduate of Meadville Theological School, the Unitarian seminary in Meadville, Pennsylvania.

Goodloe was born in Lowell, Kentucky, in 1878. He began his post-secondary education at Knoxville College in Tennessee, a segregated normal school founded by Presbyterians for the training of black teachers, ministers, industrial craftsmen, and farmers. At Knoxville, Goodloe observed first hand the implementation of Booker T. Washington’s educational philosophy, which he would later follow in Bowie, Maryland. Blacks should receive moral training and a practical industrial education, learning skills such as brick making, carpentry, and agriculture along with training in teaching and business. At Knoxville, students built most of the buildings on campus, cut the timber, and made a million bricks on site. There Goodloe met his future wife, a local woman named Fannie Carey, who would graduate from Knoxville.

After studying at Knoxville, Goodloe moved on to Berea College, a racially integrated school in Kentucky. This college was established in 1855 by Presbyterian abolitionist John Gregg Fee, who believed in true equality among the races. Fee opened Berea’s doors to all races, genders, and classes, and never charged tuition—all students were expected to work. About half of Berea students were black and half white until 1904 when Kentucky passed a law requiring schools to be segregated, as permitted by the1896 landmark U.S. Supreme Court Plessy v. Ferguson decision, which upheld the constitutionality of “separate but equal.”
Goodloe and Fannie were married in 1899, and he began his career as principal of a black public school at Newport, Tennessee, fifty miles east of Knoxville, from 1899-1900. It was there as well that Don Burrowes was born, their first son.

In 1900, they moved to Greenville, Tennessee, where Goodloe became teacher and principal of Greenville College, a black normal school, from 1900-1901. The next year, they moved back to Lowell, Kentucky, where Goodloe was a teacher from 1901-1903. In Lowell, Fannie gave birth to Wallis.

In 1903, after being a student at two normal schools and a teacher and principal in two other normal schools and a black public school, Goodloe felt the need to continue his formal education. Berea College was no longer an option because of the school segregation law. So he moved the family once again, this time to Meadville, Pennsylvania, a small town in the foothills of the Allegheny Mountains in northwestern Pennsylvania. There he enrolled simultaneously in Allegheny College, a Methodist liberal arts college, where he studied for his bachelor’s degree, and Meadville Theological School (Unitarian), where he pursued a divinity degree. Their third son, Carey, was born in Meadville.

Goodloe was not a Unitarian in 1903, but he had distanced himself from conservative Methodist theology and knew that Meadville required no doctrinal test for admittance. He was the fifth African American enrolled at Meadville and the first to graduate from the seminary. Although he may not have encountered overt bigotry at this liberal religious institution, he likely faced some prejudice from fellow students as well as from faculty.

Meadville president Franklin Southworth was well aware of Goodloe’s predicament. Southworth noted that Goodloe was an ordained elder in the Methodist Episcopal Church–and that “the way was open for him at two or three orthodox institutions in the South and the money would have been provided.” But the ambitious young man “could not bring himself to accept the doctrinal limitations” of mainstream Christianity, “so he applied to us.”

Southworth gave the new seminarian fair warning about the difficulties that lay before him, but decided that the benefits for Goodloe outweighed any disadvantages. “I endeavored before advising him to come here,” Southworth wrote, “simply to find out what his ambition was, and it seemed to me that to satisfy that ambition it was necessary for him to choose a school like ours rather than a sectarian school.”

Goodloe enrolled at Meadville despite realizing it was unlikely that a Unitarian church would ordain him. No Unitarian congregation had ever called a black minister. He also knew that a degree from a Unitarian seminary was not the best way to find work as a Methodist or other mainstream Christian preacher. Southworth reported that Goodloe had enrolled at Meadville “with his eyes open, knowing that it is probably not a good way into the orthodox ministry, but ready to take the consequences.”

Southworth revealed that Goodloe’s ambition, in addition to teaching practical skills to black youth, was to provide members of his race with less “emotionalism in religion” and more “moral teaching and preaching.” He noted that this enterprising student intended to start his own “small school composed of carefully selected students, and to run the school along with his Sunday preaching.”

Goodloe graduated from both schools in 1906. He was the second black student to graduate from Allegheny College. Thereafter, he
resumed his career as teacher at Danville (Kentucky) Industrial Normal School and as a businessman. His desire to succeed in business demonstrated not only a need to do well for his family, but also the entrepreneurial drive that may have been critical to his success in the development of Bowie Normal School.

He was a determined, ambitious man. In 1910, the family left Kentucky for Virginia, where Goodloe became vice principal of Manassas Industrial School for Colored Youth. A year later, he moved again, responding to an opportunity to lead the development of a newly relocated school near Baltimore and Washington, known both as the Maryland Normal and Industrial School at Bowie for the Training of Colored Youth and as Maryland State Normal School No. 3. This school had been founded in 1866 as the Baltimore Normal School for the Education of Colored Teachers. The Maryland Board of Education assumed control of the school in 1908 and relocated it to Bowie, in Maryland’s Prince George’s County, in September 1911.

When the Goodloe family arrived in Bowie, the school had a farmhouse, barn, and chicken house. The state constructed a new brick building where the family lived with the female students. Male students were boarded in the loft of the barn, which had previously housed horses and cows. The farmer in charge of agricultural training lived in the farmhouse. Goodloe espoused a philosophy of self-reliance in harmony with that of educator Booker T. Washington. Like Washington, the new principal at Bowie firmly believed that agricultural training and industrial instruction were essential elements of black education. The school’s catalog featured instruction in carpentry, blacksmithing, plastering, papering, and shoemaking for the male students, and domestic science, sewing, and millinery work for the women.

However, the school also prepared students to teach in segregated African American elementary schools. The academic curriculum was equal to the ordinary high school course, with English, arithmetic, algebra, history, geography, music, government, physics, botany, Latin, and German. There were six teachers, including Fannie Goodloe, who taught music.

In 1911, the school enrolled 58 pupils: 23 preparatory, 22 first year, six second-year, and seven third-year students. Incoming students had to be at least fifteen years old and to have completed six grades in the “best public schools of that state.”
For most of Goodloe’s tenure, Bowie Normal was the only Maryland school open to black students beyond the sixth-grade level. At that time, the state provided just primary school education for African Americans. The state’s first black high school, in Cambridge on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, did not open until 1917.

D.S.S. Goodloe House, Maryland Normal and Industrial School
D.S.S. Goodloe House, Maryland Normal and Industrial School

By 1915, Goodloe was active in the Knights of Pythias, a secular fraternal order. Pythians promoted friendship, universal peace, kindness and tolerance, and had rituals based on ancient Greek philosophy. Also in 1915, the Goodloes decided to build a house of their own. They hired John Moore, an African-American architect, and black workers cut lumber and the made bricks on the property. Some 70 years later, the house would be listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

In a report to the state board of education in 1915, Goodloe wrote, “It is significant that not a single student has as yet entered with adequate training in Elementary and Grammar School English. Perhaps better results might be obtained if the county superintendents insisted or demanded that more stress be placed upon the teaching of this branch in the public county schools for Negroes.” These observations on the inadequacy of English training in the county public schools more than likely offended some influential state and county officials.

The earnest Bowie principal also pursued more industrial training: “I respectfully and earnestly suggest that modest facilities be provided here for training in two or three fundamental industries: carpentry, blacksmithing and shoemaking” to produce “the manual training teachers and supervisors of Negro rural schools.”

Despite a lack of resources, the school reached some important goals. In 1916 Goodloe informed the state board, “Our graduates have no difficulty in securing [teaching] positions and filling them competently.” Nevertheless, the school encountered difficulties in its early years. In 1918 enrollment plunged to 36 students as a result of World War I, a worldwide outbreak of influenza, and the high cost of living. Following the war, however, in 1919, enrollment bounced up to 69 students, and the faculty was increased from seven to ten. Goodloe established the first summer session the following year.

Goodloe’s accomplishments did not go unnoticed. In 1915 he was featured in Who’s Who of the Colored Race; in 1916, Who’s Who in America. In 1920, the Maryland State Colored Teacher Association honored him with a letter of commendation for the “constant and progressive fight” he had made toward enriching the curriculum and uplifting the standards at the school.

By the early 1920s Don Speed Smith Goodloe had achieved many of his life’s professional goals. During his ten-year tenure at Bowie, he established a faculty of ten members, student enrollment of 80, an admission requirement of completion of seventh grade, a model elementary school for student teachers called Horsepen Hill School (the first school for black children in Bowie), a summer session, a new dormitory for women, and renovation of living quarters for men. He added one additional year to the course, which led to a second grade certificate and permitted students to do two years additional work to earn a first grade certificate.

Goodloe made many pleas before the legislature in Annapolis for additional funding that might have brought more rapid development to the school and the upgrading of the curriculum to the standards used at Maryland’s white normal schools in Towson and Frostburg. Unfortunately, the state’s appropriations favored the white normal schools.

Little is known about why Goodloe resigned his post in 1921 at the age of 43. His sons believed that the state board may have failed to renew his contract because of his “criticism” of the Prince George’s County school superintendent for failing to provide adequate elementary and secondary education to black children.

Goodloe may have struggled too aggressively to improve black education in Maryland, and in doing so ruffled many feathers at a time when Jim Crow, racism, segregation, and inequality prevailed. White mobs lynched at least fourteen blacks in Maryland in the 20 years before Goodloe arrived and two during his tenure at Bowie.

In 1922 Goodloe assumed the vice presidency of an insurance company in Baltimore, the Standard Benefit Society of Maryland, and a year later became the company’s president. He grew prosperous enough to purchase rental property in the city. Later, he moved to Washington, and it is reported that he owned extensive property in the District.

Meanwhile, Fannie and the children continued to live in the house in Bowie. Wallis and Donald both graduated from Howard University, became teachers in Baltimore, and later taught in Washington. Although there is no record of Goodloe’s religious affiliation after Meadville, his religious leanings did have an effect on his children. One of his sons, Donald B. Goodloe, was an active member at All-Souls Church, Unitarian, in Washington D.C. And one of Donald’s students at Dunbar High School in Washington eventually joined the Goodloe Memorial Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Bowie.

Don Speed Smith Goodloe died in Washington, D.C., in 1959 at the age of 81. His memorial service was held at All Souls Church, Unitarian in Washington on Sept. 8, 1959. His legacy lives on in Bowie. His enormous contributions to the building of Bowie State University will not be forgotten, and members of Goodloe Memorial Unitarian Universalist Congregation will remember him as one of the early Bowie pioneers.


Goodloe is mentioned in Mark D. Morrison-Reed, Black Pioneers in a White Denomination (1980) and receives fuller treatment in Richard Morris, “Don Speed Smith Goodloe,” in M. D. Morrison-Reed, ed., Darkening the Doorways (2011). Brief biographical information on Goodloe appears in the 1915 edition of Who’s Who of the Colored Race, the 1916 edition of Who’s Who in America, the 1923 and 1924 editions of The First Colored Professional, Clerical, Skilled and Business Directory of Baltimore City (available via the Archives of Maryland Online), and the 1944 edition of the Meadville Alumni Directory. The Meadville Lombard Theological School Archive in Chicago, Illinois holds a 1903 letter about Goodloe from Meadville president Frank Southworth to Ethelred Brown. Goodloe’s reports on the Maryland Normal and Industrial School appear in the Annual Report of the State Board of Education in 1911, 1916, 1917, and 1918, portions of which are available at Goodloe Archives, Goodloe Memorial Unitarian Universalist Congregation, Bowie, MD and Bowie State University. A Unitarian Universalist Association ministerial file is in the archives of the Andover-Harvard Theological Library. Information about the Goodloe family home can be found at the website of the Maryland Historical Trust (

Article by Richard Morris
Posted October 14, 2011