Harry V. Richardson, 1959-1968
Harry Van Buren Richardson born in Jacksonville, Florida in 1901 to Martin V. and Bortha I. Richardson received both his elementary and secondary education in Jacksonville. He graduated as valedictorian of his high school class and would go on to become one of the most recognized figures in African American history holding several positions of distinction including executive director of the United Negro College Fund and president of a historic African American theological seminary.
After high school, Richardson went to New York and held odd jobs such as an elevator operator and laundry truck driver. His high school principal had encouraged him to attend college and Richardson heeded his advice attending Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio. There, he majored in history and minored in political science. While in college, Richardson worked eight to twelve hours nightly as a bell boy, bus boy, and waiter, a porter in a hotel, and during his last two years of college as a postal worker. Richardson graduated from Western Reserve in 1925.
Richardson joined the Tuskegee Institute in 1933 where he taught history and political science and would become chaplain. During his time as chaplain, Tuskegee’s chapel became one of the leading pulpits in the South. While at Tuskegee, he also developed a program of rural extension work among Black churches. The program became south wide and at its height employed eighteen full time workers in nine states with an enrollment in excess of two thousand. In 1941 Richardson was awarded an honorary doctorate from Wilberforce. In 1943 he would attend Drew University to work on his Ph.D. in the field of rural sociology, graduating in 1945. In 1948 Harry V. Richardson became president of Gammon Theological Seminary. He served as president of Gammon until 1959 when he became the first president of an historic experiment in ecumenical and African American theological education known as the Interdenominational Theological Center. Instrumental in its founding and development he served as president of ITC until 1968.
His book, Walk Together Children, details the history of ITC. Other publications by Richardson include Dark Glory and Dark Salvation. His legacy continues in the twenty first century on the campus of the ITC through the Gammon Theological Seminary and the Richardson Ecumenical Fellowship. A portrait of Dr. Harry V. Richardson hangs in the Beckwith street entrance of ITC’s administrative building.