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LeMoyne College

Memphis, Tennessee



The Commercial Appeal covered news from LeMoyne Institute and its successors. has the history and images of LeMoyne  and its merger partners.  The 2005 National Register application covers the history of the school and its buildings.  The ad (right) is from the Memphis Daily Appeal on May 26, 1873.

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LeMoyne College traces its beginning to an American Missionary Association school for escaped slaves and free Negroes that opened at Camp Shiloh in 1862.  In 1870 Dr. Francis J. LeMoyne provided $20,000 for a new school building, his stipulation being that “dead languages” were not to be taught there.  LeMoyne Normal and Commercial Institute opened in 1871.  Its purpose was “to prepare teachers to facilitate the education of the colored race.”  The 1884-85 catalog shows a school of 350 students taught by a faculty of 11.  The Normal division (grades 8-12) had 87 students.  The Grammar division (grades 6-8) had 84 students.  The Intermediate division (grades 4-5) had 77 students, and the primary division (grades 1-3) had 125 students.  In 1924 LeMoyne became a junior college, and in 1930 it became a four-year college, regionally accredited in 1932.


In addition to providing teachers for most of the Negro schools in the Memphis area and offering summer institutes for additional teacher training, LeMoyne provided the only library open to Negroes in the area.  After 1903 The Memphis Public Library provided books, and LeMoyne loaned them to schools and individuals without charge.

During the annual Class Day, regular faculty stayed away, while their classes were taught by student teachers, elected by their peers.  


A debate program put Lemoyne College on the map in the 1930’s.  The program was so prominent that debate teams traveled to California for a tournament, and in 1933 a team traveled to Australia, Tasmania, and New Zeeland for a series of debates.


In 1937 LeMoyne College absorbed Howe Institute; in 1968 it merged with Owen Junior College.  Today LeMoyne-Owen College is a school of around 900 students, offering 23 majors.

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The 1910 graduating class from LeMoyne Normal Institute in front of the Orleans Street building.  Note what appears to be a brick basement wall below the wood siding. Image from

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Bricks and Mortar

In 1871 the Freedman’s school moved into Memphis at 284 Orleans Street.  The image (left) shows the main building to be a two- story, frame structure with a gable roof.  It appears to have a modified T-shape, with possibly a partial   basement. After Francis LeMoyne visited the school, he provided the clock for the tower.  The clock is now part of the new campus.


In 1914 the school moved to Walker Avenue with a new building, Steele Hall.  Originally square, the two-story brick structure gained an addition in 1930.  By 1936 the school had raised $400,000 to add new buildings.  Brownlee Hall is the Colonial Revival Administration Building featuring a central portico with Doric columns.  It was built using 300,000 bricks from the Lyceum Theatre in Memphis. Sweeney Hall (1936) and the Hollis Price Library (1963) create the Le Moyne College Quadrangle which was placed on the National Register in 2005.

The Orleans Street building.  Note the clock tower.  Image from Era of Progress and Promise


            Team Name: Until 1935 the Commercial Appeal referred to teams as “Yellow Jackets.”  

                                 That year the name “Mad Magicians,” apparently the product of the “razzle-

                                 dazzle” style of play employed by teams, came into use.

            School Colors:  Present school colors for LeMoyne-Owen College are Purple and Gold.


In 1932 Lemoyne College became a member of the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, an organization of Historic Black colleges. Lemoyne-Owen College remains a member today.


College Football Data Warehouse shows LeMoyne College fielding teams between1929 and 1950—except for the war years.  Under coach Jack Adkins, LeMoyne posted a 36-12-3 record between 1933 and 1939.    Rivalry games included Lane and Fisk from Tennessee; Alabama State, Philander-Smith and Arkansas AM&N, Morehouse from Georgia, and Lincoln from Missouri. 


Another Legendary coach, Jerry C. Johnson, directed the basketball program at LeMoyne and LeMoyne-Owen for 46 years, finishing with 821 victories.  His 1975 team won the NCAA Division III championship, defeating Glassboro State 57-54.


The Commercial Appeal reported a baseball team in 1932 that played the professional Memphis Red Sox.  A member of the team, Clarence Lewis, played in the Negro National League 1932-34. 

Note: Images are used in accordance with their “terms of use” as I understand those terms.  Recopying or republishing these images may be restricted or forbidden.

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