James E. Newton
University of Delaware

Harmon R. Carey
Afro-American Historical Society of Delaware

In his classic book, From Slavery to Freedom, historian John Hope Franklin observed that near the end of the 18th century, it had become apparent to many blacks, "That they would have to secure for themselves a measure of dignity and fulfillment in an atmosphere calculated to keep them in subservience. To many it appeared that if they were to enjoy the fruits of the American dream it would be through their own separate institutions. Thus, one result of this search for intellectual and spiritual independence was the creation or organization of separate, all-black avenues of self expression."

This observation by Franklin is clear evidence that the essential call for black leadership was underway. For many, it was a time to rid the nation of the evils of slavery and allow blacks to pursue their dreams.

Black Americans have consistently developed a cadre of home-grown leaders--men and women nurtured in local communities with a mission to assist their brothers and sisters to improve social, educational, and spiritual lives. For many, overcoming the obstacles of racism and discrimination was just part of the territory or, as some would say, merely "business as usual."

Several outstanding black men who served as leaders from the pulpit in Delaware were Richard Allen, Absalom Jones, and Peter Spencer. There were also exemplary leaders from business, politics, medicine, and education. This paper provides profiles of Delaware and Maryland's Eastern Shore Black Men of Distinction from the early 19th century to modern times. A brief description of each leader is presented: Absalom Jones (1746-1818), a Delaware native from Sussex County who distinguished himself as a religious, civic, and community leader; Reverend Peter Spencer (1782-1843), father of the Black Independent Church Movement in Delaware; Abraham D. Schadd (1801-1882), 19th National Negro Convention delegate, businessman, and abolitionist; William Julius "Judy" Johnson (1900-1989), Delaware's "Folk Hero of the Diamond"; Dr. Samuel G. Elbert (1865-1939), pioneer physician, civic, and community leader; Louis L. Redding (1911- ), Delaware's first black lawyer and champion of civil rights; and Herman Holloway, Sr. (1922-1994), Delaware's pioneer black political leader.

Absalom Jones (1746-1818)
Religious, Civic, and Community Leader

Whenever the name of African Methodist Episcopal Bishop Richard Allen is mentioned, the name of Absalom Jones is likely to follow. A close friend and associate, Absalom Jones is also heralded as "one of America's most distinguished clergyman." Absalom Jones was born a slave in Sussex County, Delaware in 1746. Although born in Delaware, at age 15, Jones was sent by his master to work in a shop in Philadelphia. A diligent individual, Jones worked in the shop during the day and attended a Quaker school at night to gain a basic education. Young Jones eventually saved enough money to purchase his own freedom as well as his wife's.

Historian Carol V. R. George, in Segregated Sabbaths, described Jones as ". . . essentially a quiet, peaceful man, a committed churchman whose intuitive skill in diplomacy prevented angry confrontations." Unlike Allen, whose aggression sometimes brought on conflict, Jones displayed "tact in social relations." The apparent differences in personality probably served Allen and Jones well in their pastoral, civic, and community partnerships.

In 1787, the year Delaware ratified the United States Constitution, Jones and Allen walked out of St. George's Methodist Episcopal Church when they were asked to interrupt their prayers and move to the rear of the gallery. Their refusal to accept second-class status in the church ultimately led to the founding of the Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME) in 1794. Allen became the first bishop of the AME branch of Methodism. The development of Methodism amongst blacks in the Delaware and Pennsylvania region is sometimes referred to as "the cradle of black religious freedom," due to the efforts of Allen and Jones.

The quiet leadership of Absalom Jones has gone unnoticed by many historians who often fail to mention his outstanding deeds. In 1794, Jones became the founder and pastor of St. Thomas Protestant Episcopal Church. In addition, Jones has the distinction of being the first black ordained minister in America (in the Protestant Episcopal Church).

One of his most significant achievements was the organization of the Free African Society, a society led by both Allen and Jones. According to Harry Richardson, in Dark Salvation: "In the terrible yellow fever epidemic of 1793 in Philadelphia, which killed hundreds, Jones and Allen worked together heroically to tend the sick, bury the dead, and render all possible service to the victims, most of whom were white. They were commended by the mayor of the city for their work."

Although Allen remained a Methodist and Jones became an Episcopal minister, they remained close friends throughout their lives. Their alliance as religious, civic, and community co-workers allowed them to work effectively for the advancement of African Americans. The Allen and Jones team is one of the most effective black leadership duos found in American history.

In 1818, at the age of 71, native Delawarean Absalom Jones passed on his baton of leadership. His legacy was that of an effective, quiet leader. He will be remembered as church founder, co-leader of the Free African Society, and committed to a better way of life for his fellow blacks as well as all Americans.

Peter Spencer (1782-1843)
Church Founder, Businessman, and Educator

Peter Spencer is heralded as the father of Delaware's Independent Black Church Movement. Spencer's biographer, Lewis V. Baldwin, informs us that:

"The literature on Peter Spencer is amazingly scarce. Despite his tremendous importance as a church leader and founder, he has been almost totally ignored by sincere and proven scholars who have spent most, if not all, of their lifetime recounting the history of religion in America."

It is only in the past decade that Spencer is beginning to gain the attention of scholars. The accounts of much of his life are scant, but the evidence attests to his abilities as an organizer and leader. While Richard Allen's church was generally viewed as the founder of the first black Methodist denomination (incorporated in Philadelphia on April 9, 1816), the Spencer church--the African Union Methodist Protestant Church laid its claim years earlier on September 18, 1813. Thus, Spencer is one of the key figures in the history of African Methodism.

Born a slave in Kent County, Maryland in 1782, he was set free when his master died. During the early 1800s, Spencer took up roots in Wilmington where he received a basic education and found some financial success as a mechanic.

Spencer had a high regard for marriage. His wife Anne, previously married, was from Lancaster, Pennsylvania. He raised two stepdaughters, provided well, and directed their educational pursuits. In the Spencer home, industry and thrift were key values.

A well-known figure in Wilmington's emerging black community, he was affectionately called "Father Spencer." Aside from being a devoted family man, he was also a "father figure and friend to numerous blacks in Wilmington."

Several personal qualities gave Spencer the requisites necessary for effective leadership: he was versatile, persuasive, a gifted teacher, and an efficient mechanic by trade. And, he had studied law and was able to assist his people in legal matters. His integrity and intellect also gave him credibility.

In the area of education, Reverend Spencer provided blacks in Wilmington with a valuable service. A strong believer that education was the responsibility of black leadership, Spencer provided "hands-on" training in teaching the illiterate to read and write. His role as an educator has often been ignored. For Reverend Spencer, education and religion were "twins"--with instruction the key to ethical principles. Spencer understood then that knowledge was power.

Although Spencer distinguished himself as an astute businessman, educator, and mechanic, he is best known for his work as a church founder and organizer. In 1813, after rejecting white clerical domination and control, Father Spencer established, in Wilmington, the first independent black church denomination--the Union Church of Africans--presently known as the African Union Methodist Protestant (AUMP).

Father Spencer inaugurated the tradition of establishing the last Sunday in August as a time for a general reunion and religious revival--popularly known as "August Quarterly"--the day of jubilation. It originated in 1814 and is Delaware's oldest folk festival. It is also one of 19th-century America's few black religious festivals. Black workers, slave and free, were given time off to attend the festivities. The occasion served as a "homecoming" for many from the neighboring states of Maryland and Pennsylvania. The celebration included preaching, singing, dancing, and offered opportunities to worship, meet friends and relatives, and commemorate the founding and founder of African Union Methodism.

In the quest to uplift his people, Reverend Spencer left a legacy of high ideals and devotion. In keeping with his mission as leader of his people, Spencer engaged in a host of pro-black activities, including his support of the Underground Railroad in Delaware under the helm of station master Thomas Garrett. It is reputed that Spencer's church was involved in the network to assist runaway slaves. During the "August Quarterly." slaves "used the Mother Church as the starting point for escape to all points North."

Spencer, along with other black leaders such as Abraham Schadd, was a leader in the movement to oppose the American Colonization Society's effort to get blacks to return to Africa. It is generally believed that without the strong opposition from Spencer and his forces, the colonization scheme would have met with little, if any, resistance. Spencer's standing in the community suffered from this action, but he continued to speak out against all forms of injustice.

On July 25, 1843, Peter Spencer died in Wilmington, Delaware. His final words were, "The battle is fought and the victory is won." Newspaper accounts all revealed a reverent respect for the legacy he left behind. The July 28, 1843 issue of The Delaware State Journal wrote the following:

Died in this City on Tuesday last, Rev. Peter Spencer (colored) aged 61 years, and six months. He bore an excellent character, and was extensively known as the most active and influential minister of the Union Church (colored) in this City, branches of which are spread throughout several of the surrounding states. His death has produced a vacancy, and it will be difficult to find any person who will fill his station with the industry, ability and influence which he did.

During his lifetime, Father Spencer organized 31 churches and several schools. He left a legacy to be envied by all. His character, temperament, and commitment to his church were the hallmarks of a man with a vision.

Abraham D. Schadd (1801-1882)
Abolitionist, Businessman, and Community Organizer

Abraham D. Schadd was one of Delaware's most significant black leaders of the 19th century. The Schadd family represents one of the premier black families of Delaware. Daniel Hill, in The Freedom Seekers, reports that the family descended from Hans Schadd who was born in Cassel, Germany about 1725. Hans served in Braddock's army in 1755 and ultimately settled in Westchester (now West Chester), Pennsylvania. His grandson, Abraham D. Schadd, was probably born in Mill Creek Hundred in 1801. He was a staunch black abolitionist dedicated to ending slavery.

Abraham Schadd was the father of 13 children and earned a successful living as a shoemaker, a trade he learned from his father. He acquired property in Wilmington, which reflected of his business skills.

In the 1830s, blacks hosted several national conventions to protest racism and repression. At the first convention held on September 30, 1830 in Philadelphia, Richard Allen presided. Forty delegates from nine states attended. Abraham Schadd was the Delaware representative. The major purpose of the convention was to establish a colony for blacks in Canada. Following the first convention, the National Negro Convention was established. Schadd met with convention leaders as Delaware delegate in 1830, 1831, and 1832.

As an anti-slavery critic, Schadd made his views known and became a subscription agent for William Lloyd Garrison's anti-slavery newspaper, The Liberator. Schadd also served as a delegate to the American Anti-Slavery Society (1835, 1836). A clear indication of his commitment and leadership, Schadd was elected president of the National Convention in 1833. As president of that body, he emphasized education, thrift, and hard work to improve the conditions of blacks.

In 1816, soon after the American Colonization Society was organized, Abraham Schadd joined with other black leaders such as William Anderson and Peter Spencer to organize forces against the "colonization scheme."

In 1836, Schadd was living in West Chester and was taking "an active role in Underground Railroad activities," working in concert with the local Quakers.

In 1851, Schadd, with his 13 children, relocated to North Buxton in Ontario, where he purchased 200 acres of land in a black communal settlement. He remained there, an active mason, civic, and community leader, and in 1858 he was elected to the Raleigh Township Commission.

The life Abraham Schadd led became a model for several of his children. His oldest daughter, Mary Ann Schadd (1823-1893), became well-known as an educator, lawyer, and journalist. The Delaware born heroine attended a Quaker-based school in West Chester, Pennsylvania and later became an instructor for black youth in Wilmington. Several other members of the Schadd family excelled: I. D. Schadd served in the Mississippi Legislature from 1871-1874; Abraham W. Schadd was a graduate of Howard Law School; Garrison Schadd became a wealthy farmer; and Emaline Schadd became a professor at Howard University.

He and the other leaders saw no need to go back to Africa since Africans had aided in the building of America by "the sweat of their brow." They had as much right to stay in America as other immigrants. In July 1831, the anti-colonization black leaders alerted the black citizens to stay in Delaware until circumstances improved.

By the time of his death in 1882, Abraham Schadd had presented himself as an imposing force against the evils of slavery. He could look back at himself and his work as a black abolitionist, Underground Railroad supporter, Delaware's delegate to National Negro Conventions, President of the National Convention for the Improvement of Free People of Color, pioneer in black settlements in Canada, civic leader, and entrepreneur. His legacy and perseverance was passed on to his family. His deeds and actions for fellow humans entitles him to be ranked among the top black leaders of the 19th century.

Dr. Samuel G. Elbert, Sr. (1865-1939)
Doctor, Businessman, Civic, and Community Leader

One of the first African Americans to open a medical practice in the State of Delaware to serve blacks was Dr. Samuel G. Elbert, Sr. On November 7, 1865, he was born on a farm near Chestertown, Maryland. He received an early education in the primary schools of Chestertown and later entered the pre-medical program at Howard University in Washington, D.C. In 1891, he graduated from the Howard Medical School. For advanced study, Dr. Elbert pursued post-graduate medical courses at the University of Pennsylvania and received a degree in 1894. At the turn-of-the- century Elbert ventured to the Wilmington and established his practice, serving the African American community.

The city of Wilmington and Elbert proved to be a good match. According to Harold Livesay, Wilmington had attracted a colony of educated, prosperous blacks who had developed a successful way of life. They owned property, maintained a high standard of living, sent their children to Sunday School, high school, and out-of-state colleges. Since the color line was drawn for all blacks, they were restricted in any meaningful participation in the social or political arena. Such restrictions allowed them to assume leadership in the black community. Dr. Samuel G. Elbert became one of those leaders, devoting much of his time to the advancement of education for blacks.

Between 1927 and 1931, Dr. Elbert served as a member of the Wilmington Board of Education. An astute businessman and civic leader, he also made his presence felt in the area of politics. As a lifetime Republican, Dr. Elbert embraced the party of Lincoln and remained an active member. In his first attempt at public office, he ran for city councilman of Wilmington (1909) and lost as the Democrats swept to victory. Active in city and state affairs, Elbert was delegate from Delaware to two national Republican conventions.

As a devoted public servant with an eye for black education, Dr. Elbert became the first black member to serve on the Board of Trustees of the State College for Colored Students at Dover, Delaware (now Delaware State University). Dr. Elbert served on the board for 15 years, from 1918-1933. Dr. Elbert's efforts, along with W. C. Jason, Delaware State's president, were productive enough to keep the college intact during its formative years.

Dr. Elbert's leadership and concerns about black mobilization went beyond Delaware. He was actively involved with national black movements, especially the National Negro Business League, founded by Booker T. Washington in 1900. The League's purpose was to stimulate the development of black business enterprises. One of the League's 22 local chapters was established in Wilmington, Delaware. Ownership, technical assistance, business planning, and profitable operations were the key goals of the organization. According to League records, in 1906, at the sixth annual meeting, Dr. Samuel G. Elbert was elected second vice president.

Through his connections with Washington, Elbert was able to arrange a two-day tour of Delaware for the educator. Speeches in eight sites throughout the state were planned, including a special train for the tour from the Pennsylvania Railroad. A host of prominent African Americans from Philadelphia, New York, and Washington, D.C. were assembled for the tour. Site visits on the first day (July 3, 1910), included Washington speaking in New Castle, Newark, and Wilmington. Second day visits on July 4, 1910, took place in Milford, Dover, Clayton, and Middletown. Records indicate that this was the only time the famed president of Tuskegee Institute visited Delaware.

Washington's visit was no small matter. As a molder of public opinion amongst white power brokers, Washington's views would serve as a strong testing ground for Delaware, a state whose position on issues pertaining to race needed "sensitive prodding," one of Washington's strongest assets.

At the close of the tour, an informal reception was held at the residence of Dr. and Mrs. Elbert, located at Eleventh and King Streets. A Wilmington Morning News reporter (July 5, 1910) describes the reception:

A party arrived shortly after 8 o'clock last evening and continued from then until an early hour this morning. The dining room was tastefully decorated for the occasion and covers were laid for fifty guests. As the guests gathered around the festive board, Wright's orchestra concealed behind an immense bank of palms, furnished music of a patriotic order. Short talks were made by those present, and the evening was enjoyably spent.

In the July 5, 1910 issue of the Evening Journal, Booker T. Washington comments about his Delaware tour:

"I am greatly pleased and surprised in many ways. The Negroes are enjoying a great deal of prosperity here, although their spheres of action are perhaps not so diversified as further South. I am also much pleased with the school system. Delaware has a better school system for the negro than any other Southern State,--if Delaware may be called a Southern State. But what pleased me most is the friendly attitude among the white people, shown not only to the speeches of those who have introduced me but by the white people in the audiences. All that I have seen has encouraged me. I wish to say now how deeply obligated I am to Dr. S. G. Elbert and the other members of the Business Men's League for the kind reception they have given me, and their efforts to make my stay here a pleasant one."

Washington's praise of Delaware was reflected in Dr. Samuel G. Elbert's life in action and distinction. There is no better evidence of his influence than his son, Dr. Samuel G. Elbert, Jr., who also became one of the leaders in the medical field for the black community, practicing at his office on French Street for more than two decades. The venerable Dr. Samuel G. Elbert, Sr. had a profound influence, especially in the city of Wilmington, where he resided. His commitment to black education, civic pride, and business organization all attributed to his success as an effective community leader.

William Julius "Judy" Johnson (1900-1989)
Delaware's Folk Hero of the Diamond

William (Judy) Johnson was one of baseball's all-time greats, a product of the old Negro Leagues, and a legend in his time. To most Delawareans, he is a genuine folk hero, in the same tradition of the magnetic and controversial Jack Johnson, the calm but swift Joe Louis, and the "steel diving" John Henry.

Judy Johnson was born October 26, 1900 in Snow Hill, Maryland. Around 1905, his parents moved to Wilmington, Delaware, where he spent most of his youthful years rushing to get his chores done, so he could play baseball. Johnson's own recollection is that he "played baseball morning, noon, and night." Sometimes he and his teammates would pack up their equipment and walk miles to play games at sites in Buttonwood (New Castle), Eden Park, and Marshallton. As a youngster growing up in Wilmington, he had occasional the opportunity to play football and baseball on integrated teams.

Because Judy's father was a licensed boxing coach, he obviously preferred boxing to baseball. But he realized his son's love and passion for the game and provided the necessary encouragement for development.

By his late teens, Judy had already been in the lineup of the Madison Stars of Philadelphia, a semi-pro outfit, and the Chester Giants. He made his professional baseball debut playing for the Hilldale (Upper Darby) baseball team, a charter team of the Negro Eastern League in 1922. Hilldale made it to the first Negro League World Series against the Kansas City Monarchs in 1924. Hilldale lost, but Johnson led his teammates with a batting average of .341. And, until 1929 he had more hits than any batter in the American Negro League. In 1925, however, Hilldale won the series assisted by the ample hitting of Johnson.

Johnson remained a key to the Hilldale team until he departed in 1929 to manage the Homestead Grays (1930) and the Darby Daisies (1931). Between 1932 and 1937, the Pittsburgh Crawfords benefitted from Judy's excellent fielding, consistent hitting, and all-around sportsmanship.

The Sunday afternoon baseball game in Delaware's black community was a familiar sight, and it became common tradition that immediately following church, mothers and daughters, fathers and sons, young and old alike, would come well-prepared and anxious to cheer on their favorite team and players. Judy Johnson was a favorite, and his feats on the field became legendary to many of the fans. Although the tradition has decreased in fervor, there are still many black Delawareans who remember those who couldn't wait for "the season" to open, to don their uniforms for a Sunday afternoon game of "stick ball."

The former great Negro League infielder was signed as an assistant coach by the Philadelphia Athletics in February 1954. The first of his race to serve in this capacity for a major league baseball club, Johnson assisted veteran Eddie Yost in coaching first basemen and pitchers. As a scout for the A's, he missed the chance to sign future home run king Hank Aaron from the Cincinnati Clowns because of club finances. In scouting for the Milwaukee Braves, Johnson signed Bill Bruton, who later became his son-in-law. Additionally, he also served as scout for the Philadelphia Phillies.

Although a major portion of his time on the diamond was spent playing for such teams as the Madison Stars, the Chester Giants, and the Pittsburgh Crawfords, Judy--like many all-time Negro greats--"never received a chance to compete in the higher echelons of the game." Nine years after Johnson stopped playing, Jackie Robinson became the first black player to compete in the major leagues, when he became a member of the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947.

At age 75, Judy Johnson achieved his greatest ambition--to be inducted into baseball's Hall of Fame at Cooperstown, New York. Izzy Katzman, staff correspondent for the Evening Journal, comments on the February 10, 1975 event:

The one-time great third baseman from Marshallton, Del., was voted into baseball's Hall of Fame by the Negro Baseball Selection Committee. The committee selects players from the old Negro leagues era before the major league color line was broken by Jackie Robinson in 1947.
Judy is the sixth player to be selected by the Negro Committee. Others chosen, in the order named, were Satchel Paige, Josh Gibson, Buck Leonard, Monte Irvin and James (Cool Papa) Bell.

Delawareans recognize the importance of the contribution of Judy Johnson and pay tribute to his legacy--on the field and off. His consistent performance in the old Negro League was sufficient enough to pave the road for future players such as Jackie Robinson, Roy Campanella, and Jim Gilliam.

William (Judy) Johnson was the first Delawarean to enter baseball's Hall of Fame. He was loved and respected in the community where he lived. His triumphs in life and on the baseball field made him a legend in his own time.

William Julius "Judy" Johnson died in Marshallton, Delaware in 1989. The field at the home of the Blue Rocks baseball team at Frawley Stadium (named after the former Mayor of Wilmington) is known as Johnson Field. A statue in his honor is also at that location. He will always be fondly remembered as "Delaware's Folk Hero of the Diamond."

Louis L. Redding (1911 - )
Champion of Civil Rights

There is probably not a man, woman, or child in Delaware who has not heard of the deeds of Louis L. Redding, who could easily be identified as "Mr. Civil Rights" of Delaware.

Mr. Redding's fight for the rights of African Americans in the First State is a tribute to his commitment to change the lives and opportunities of those who had for so long been treated as second-class citizens.

At the age of 28, Redding became Delaware's first black lawyer. A graduate of Wilmington's Howard High School, Brown University, and Harvard Law School, he was equipped with the skills necessary to practice law. He was also a product of "The Reddings," an upwardly mobile, middle class black family, whose father, Lewis Alfred, taught his eldest son to fight back. The family included Jay Saunders Redding, college professor and famed writer and author of No Day of Triumph. His sister, the late Gwendolyn Redding, has a legendary reputation as a serious English teacher at Howard High School.

Louis L. Redding, the first of five children, was born in 1911 in Wilmington, Delaware. His father, Lewis, a graduate of Howard University, relocated to Wilmington to earn enough to support a family. As one of four black postal carriers in Wilmington, the elder Redding was able to provide for his family. Louis' father was a community leader in Wilmington, serving as Secretary of the NAACP, Trustee ofBethel AME Church, and member of the Board of the Layton Home. Growing up in a mixed neighborhood with strong middle-class values of education and thrift probably served Louis well in his later legal barriers toward equity in education and opportunity.

In 1949 (20 years after becoming a lawyer), Louis was finally included as a member of the Bar Association. Redding, like most young lawyers, had aspirations of working in a city law firm. But, fate took another turn. Delawareans today profit because of Louis L. Redding's decision to return to Delaware and unlock the doors of inequality and opportunity. For Redding, it was no easy task. He was isolated and alienated from the legal community. Redding was unwilling to allow his three daughters to grow up in a segregated society and attend segregated schools, so he chose to take up residence in nearby Pennsylvania.

Comments have always been offered about Redding's demeanor. He presented himself in a dignified fashion. News Journal columnist Laurie Hays found him charming, witty, and kind. Others suggested that he was detached and aloof. Another observation was that Redding had ". . . a low tolerance for fools." Whatever his personal traits, it is clear that in the area of civil rights, he earned the utmost respectfrom his peers and fellow citizens. Advocating school integration to end racial disparities in education, Redding served as legal council for the plaintiff in the first school desegregation case in Delaware. And, he argued successfully before the Supreme Court, the Delaware case in Brown versus the Board of Education.

In 1949, students at Delaware State College applied for admission to the all white University of Delaware. They were rejected on the basis that Delaware State was provided for colored students. The students took the case to Louis L. Redding, the lone black lawyer at the time. Redding, with the aid of NAACP Assistant Special Council Jack Greenberg, argued Parker v. University of Delaware (1950). Vice-Chancellor Collins Seitz, after considering the evidence, ordered the University of Delaware to open its doors to the plaintiffs. Delaware did not appeal the decision. The University of Delaware became the first state-supported institution in America to be desegregated at the undergraduate level--by law.

Louis L. Redding, committed to the task of school racial integration, and at great personal and professional sacrifice, became Delaware's foremost advocate of civil rights.

The leadership exemplified by Redding in the area of civil rights is a milestone in American history. For his vision of a true democracy, embracing equality of opportunity, citizens throughout Delaware and the nation are beneficiaries of his commitment. Louis L. Redding's return to Wilmington changed the populaces' attitude toward racial injustice forever. He will be forever remembered for his role as Delaware's Champion of Civil Rights.

Herman Holloway, Sr. (1922-1994)
Dean of Delaware's Black Politicians

Herman Holloway Sr. has come to be known as the "Dean of Black Politicians in Delaware." It is an appropriate title for a man who spent more than 30 years as a public servant in the State Legislature, having served as a State Representative and a State Senator.

Herman Holloway, Sr., a Democrat, championed the poor and the downtrodden. An effective orator, his skills of persuasion served him well. His legacy of leadership in the area of social services for Delawareans is unparalleled.

On February 4, 1922, Herman M. Holloway, Sr. was born to William and Hennie Holloway. Young Holloway grew up in Wilmington attending parochial and public schools. As an athlete, he excelled in basketball and football at the all black Howard High School, the only black secondary school in Delaware at the time. Following graduation from high school, he attended Hampton Institute for one year.

Like many young men, Holloway embarked on many different jobs before settling on his chosen path. Known for his political savvy and ability to handle himself (in his earlier years, he was known as "Knockout" for his boxing prowess and "Cool" for his basketball handing skills), Holloway worked his way through a number of occupations: bar and grill operator; school district maintenance supervisor; Wilmington police officer; Boy Scout coordinator; and aide in the General Assembly. Unsatisfied with the several jobs he undertook, Holloway decided to try his hand at politics. At age 23, in 1945, Holloway was defeated for a seat on the Wilmington City Council. In 1963, he was elected to serve out the unexpired term of Paul Livingston in the Delaware House of Representatives. One year later, in 1964, Holloway became the first black elected to Delaware's State Senate from the Second District of New Castle County. Since 1964, Holloway has been returned to office at every election. (In 1996, Margaret Rose Henry became the first African American woman to be elected to Delaware's State Senate.)

Although elected to the Senate with the help of the Democratic Party, Senator Holloway established himself as an "independent" legislator. During his 29 years in the legislature, Holloway often went against his party on racial and civil rights issues and even supported Republicans for office. Although some of these actions placed him in what he called "hell catching" positions, many observers understood that Holloway was an astute politician. Accomplished at the art of "wheeling and dealing" in back rooms, he knew how to use the leverage he had as an "independent." These skills and his ability to articulate his position placed Holloway in the center of many legislative battles.

One of the hallmarks of Senator Holloway's legislative career occurred in 1965 when he introduced Senate Bill 128 (an Open Housing Bill) and later supported Senate Bill 358, which called for open transactions on all housing sales. Holloway stirred the public conscience on opening housing and supported the bill with rigorous debate. Although it was defeated, the December 9, 1965 News Journal reported that Holloway, "held the spectators spellbound with a plea for passage of Senate Bill 358." His words were a reminder to the Senate: "While there is discrimination in housing against Negroes in Delaware, the military cemeteries and foxholes in Vietnam are fully integrated with Negro and White soldiers." Eventually, an open housing bill was passed in 1968.

Holloway managed, through longevity and negotiation, to become a major player in Delaware's political circles. By 1988, he was the most tenured legislator in the Delaware Assembly. No other legislator elected in the nation (at any level of government) had more continuous service than Senator Herman Holloway, Sr. of Delaware.

In the area of social legislation Holloway has no peer. Over his 31 years as Delaware's legislator, Holloway served on numerous committees: Adult and Juvenile Corrections; Children, Youth, and Family; Joint Finance Committee; Labor and Industrial Relations; and Revenue and Taxation to list a few.

Holloway's service was exhaustive. He was chairperson on the Senate Committee on Health, Social Services, and Aging for 16 years. He was a member of Delaware's Interstate Cooperative Commission, the Human Resource Task Force, and the Eastern Region of the National Legislator Conference.

Senator Holloway's biggest victories were in the form of his socially progressive legislation. The Public Accommodations Act was passed in 1963, barring racial discrimination in public accommodations. In his belief that he was "the representative for all the people," Holloway's legislation provided for the broadest range of human and social services--disabilities, medical and educational programs, opportunities and benefits for women, adult protective services, effective child support collection, opportunities for the disadvantaged and poor, child protective services, and a host of other human needs.

"The Senator," as he was oftentimes endearingly referred to, did not, as many observed, limit his compassion to the legislation. Several stories attest to his personal sacrifice and concern for fellow citizens. Holloway never lost his touch with the common folk.

One story reveals that Holloway was late to his own swearing-in ceremony because he was busy helping a lady get her money back from a grocery store owner who had sold her some tainted pork chops. Another episode found Holloway in the hospital being treated for lung cancer and demanding a limousine come get him to cast his vote on a desegregation agreement that was one vote short. Such actions earned him great respect.

While Holloway had his critics throughout his legislative career, his accomplishments, in the long run, outweighed any limitations. Delaware State College (now Delaware State University) awarded him an Honorary Doctor of Law degree in 1969. In 1972, the Georgetown Branch of Delaware Technical and Community College awarded him an Honorary Associates Degree of Applied Science. The Delaware Chapter of the National Caucus and Center for Black Aged honored him for Outstanding Service in 1990. And, numerous other agencies have lauded Holloway for his contributions for making a difference in the lives of all Delawareans.

Senator Holloway was also active in civic affairs. He was a member of Mount Joy United Methodist Church; a Past Worshipful Master of Union Lodge #21 Prince Hall Masonic Order; member of the Board of Mangers of the Walnut Street YMCA; member of the historic Monday Club, Inc. of Wilmington; and founder and President of the Citizens Political Issue League of Delaware.

A strong family man, Holloway was married to the former Miss Ethel Johnson of Wilmington. The marriage produced five children--three daughters and two sons. Herman M. Holloway, Jr. developed his father's knack for politics and was first elected to the State House in 1978 and was re-elected in 1980 and 1982.

On March 14, 1995, Herman M. Holloway, Sr. died of lung cancer at the age of 72. He will be remembered for the pivotal role he played in the state's passage of Civil Rights legislation and his efforts to bring Delaware's human service into the modern age. The State Health and Social Services Building on DuPont Highway has been named in his honor. A portrait of the Senator by African American artist, Simmie Knox, now hangs in Legislative Hall in Dover. Senator Herman M. Holloway, Sr. in his pioneering efforts has increased black participation in the mainstream. As we move toward the year 2000, it would bode Delawareans well to follow the example Senator Holloway--a man whose leadership enhanced the life of the entire citizenry of Delaware.


In conclusion, these seven leaders took on the mantel of leadership and distinguished themselves. That there were others worthy of inclusion in this essay, there is no doubt. However, the seven men presented here all possess qualities of discipline, order, focus, good character, and a compassion for their fellow human beings. These attributes are the basic qualities of leadership. Their legacies are still with us today. Through character, courage, and commitment, they were able to make their mark as one of "Diamonds" of Delaware and Maryland's Eastern Shore: Seven Black Men of Distinction.

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Last Updated: August 4, 1997