(Editor's note: Research for this article was taken from the biography of Don Goodloe written by Richard Morris in the Dictionary of Unitarian and Universalist Biography, an on-line resource of the Unitarian Universalist History & Heritage Society.)
A Garrard County native, who was born in the Lowell community near Paint Lick in the late 1800s, was a pioneer educator in Danville and numerous other normal schools and colleges for Black students.
Don Speed Smith Goodloe, born June 2, 1878, to Donalson and Amanda Goodloe, helped pave the way for Black children to get a good education despite the hardships he encountered along his journey from Kentucky, Tennessee, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Maryland to Washington, D.C.
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.
He received 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.
Goodloe later moved back to Kentucky to attend Berea College, which was opened to all races, genders and classes, and never charged tuition — all students were expected to work. Goodloe met his wife, Fannie Carey, during college in Knoxville. They were married in 1899, and he began his career in 1899 as principal of a black public school at Newport, Tenn., east of Knoxville.
The couple had three children, Don Burrowes (1901-1978) was born in Tennessee; William A. “Wallis” (1902) was born in Lowell; and Reid Casey (1904-1969) was born in Pennsylvania. Don and Wallis were teachers.
In 1900, they moved to Greenville, Tenn., where Goodloe was teacher and principal from 1900 to 1901 at Greenville College, a black normal school. The next year, they moved back to Lowell, where Goodloe was a teacher from 1901-1903.
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. He moved the family once again, this time to Meadville, Pa., a small town in the foothills of the Allegheny Mountains.
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.
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. 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 “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 Goodloe 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, 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,” Southworth wrote.
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 Goodloe 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 and was the second black student to graduate from Allegheny College. He later resumed his career as teacher at Danville (Kentucky) Industrial Normal School and as a businessman. He stayed a few years, then headed back to Virginia.
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 in Maryland.
Arrival in Bowie
In 1910, the Goodloe family was in 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 as the Maryland Normal and Industrial School in Bowie for the Training of Colored Youth and as Maryland State Normal School No. 3. The school was founded in 1866 as the Baltimore Normal School for the Education of Colored Teachers and after the Maryland Board of Education assumed control of the school in 1908, it was relocated to Bowie in September 1911.
When the Goodloe family arrived in Bowie, the school had a a few outbuildings. The state constructed a new brick building where the family lived with the female students. Male students were boarded in the loft of a barn with a farmer who was in charge of agricultural training. Goodloe, like educator Booker T. Washington, 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 male students, and domestic science, sewing and millinery work for women.
The school also prepared students to teach in segregated African American elementary schools. The school had six teachers, including Fannie Goodloe, who taught music.
For most of Goodloe's tenure, Bowie Normal was the only Maryland school open to black students beyond the sixth-grade level.
By 1915, Goodloe was active in the Knights of Pythias, a secular fraternal order which promoted friendship, universal peace, kindness and tolerance.
The Goodloes decided in 1915 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. The house is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
Goodloe informed the state board of education in 1915 that not a single student had entered Bowie school with adequate training in elementary and grammar school English. He also wanted better facilities to provide training for industries like carpentry, blacksmithing and shoemaking.
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.”
Goodloe's accomplishments did not go unnoticed. In 1915 he was featured in “Who’s Who of the Colored Race;” and 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 10-year tenure at Bowie, he established a faculty of 10 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 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.
Becomes president of insurance company
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.
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.