John Elijah Ford

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Portrait of Rev. John Elijah Ford

Reverend John Elijah Ford, D. D., President Leland University

Leland University was located on St. Charles Ave., New Orleans, La. until 1916. It was founded in 1869, by Holbrook Chamberlain, a philanthropist of Brooklyn, N. Y., who purchased the land and erected the buildings. It was incorporated in 1870.

Title to the property is invested in an independent, self perpetuating board of trustees. The act of incorporation provides that: The trustees shall not have the power to encumber by mortgage, the whole, or any part of the property or to use the principal of any endowment funds for the current expenses of its work. The last scholastic year, there was a total attendance of 300 pupils. There were fourteen teachers, six men and eight women. The sources of income at that time were: Endowment fund $8,000, tuition and fees $2,240, Alumni and Baptist Associations $362.00. The non-educational receipts were from the boarding department, and amounted to $5,760.00. The school was closed in 1916, and the plant sold, as the trustees had decided to move to Alexandria, La., where they could obtain sufficient land to build and operate an Industrial College in keeping with the need and training of present conditions of this section of the country. To this end, 258 acres of land has been bought and paid for; $75,000.00 added to the endowment fund. A plant which will be a model in every respect is in course of construction. The trustees have taken a long step forward in electing Rev. John E. Ford, D. D., of Jacksonville, President and assuring him their support in the selection of an able faculty. He is splendidly endowed, both by education and native ability to fill the chair of President of the new and finer Leland University. Born in Owensboro, Ky., his parents moved to Chicago, while he was yet a child, he obtained his early education in the public schools of Chicago, under the most adverse and trying circumstances. His parents were twice burned out, once in the great fires of 1871 and again in 1874.

Nothing daunted, young John not only continued his duties but working out of school hours, aided his parents in rebuilding their home and in educating his younger brothers and sisters. Determined to have a thorough training at all cost, he worked his way, with the aid of one white friend, successively through Fisk University, Nashville, Tenn., Beloit College, Wisconsin, and the University of Chicago. Not satisfied with this he took a post graduate course at the University of Denver. Most of his college courses were paid for by money earned while working as a stenographer in Chicago. After graduating from Chicago University Divinity School, Dr. Ford pastored the Bethesda Church, Chicago, Tabernacle Church, Los Angeles, Cal., Zion Church, Denver, Col., and is at present pastor of Bethel Institutional Church, Jacksonville, Fla. He served one year, 1906, as President of State University of Kentucky. Was delegate in 1907 to the World’s Sunday School Convention, at Rome, Italy. While there he visited England, France, Spain and Switzerland. Dr. Ford has also visited Cuba and South America. He is president of the Progressive Baptist State Convention of Florida, and Chairman of the Board of Trustees of Florida Baptist College. Dr. Ford is also a member of the American Geographical Society of Applied Science. By this it will be seen that, to one of the finest academic educations obtainable, Dr. Ford has added a wonderful course of practical experience in the schools of travel and human nature. In him is found a combination of the highly educated, aggressively constructive Yankee, and the whole-souled sympathetic Southerner. He has the knack of spurring his co-workers on to a pitch of enthusiastic energy that makes him peculiarly fitted for the task of presiding over a southern college. Dr. Ford was married to Miss Elizabeth Walker Wilson, of Raleigh. N. C., in 1918.

Source: National Cyclopedia of the Colored Race, Editor-in-Chief, Clement Richardson, National Publishing Company, Inc., Montgomery, Alabama, 1919 - Courtesy of Daviess County Bicentennial Committee