Glasgow Daily Times, Glasgow, KY

Local News

February 21, 2010

Francis Wood left legacy in education

GLASGOW — Francis M. Wood is name that has been forgotten over time, but his accomplishments will live on forever.

Wood was born in Barren County in 1878. He attended Glasgow public schools, as well as the Glasgow Normal School and later Terre Haute College in Terre Haute, Ind.

 He graduated from Kentucky State University in 1901, receiving diplomas from the academic and agricultural departments. He received a Master of Arts degree from Eckstein-Norton University, now the Lincoln Institute of Kentucky in 1906, according to his obituary published in the New York Times.

Wood became a great educator, teaching in various black schools statewide. He served as principal of a black elementary and secondary school in Barren County and in Lancaster and Paris, Ky.

He also served as president of the Kentucky Negro Educational Association for 10 years and of the Kentucky Negro Industrial Institute, which is now Kentucky State University, from May 1923 to June 24, according to the University of Kentucky’s Notable Kentucky African-Americans Web site.

He returned to KSU in the early 1920s and became president of the college in 1923.

“He was the first and only graduate of the institution to become president of it,” said Anne Butler, director for the office of regional stewardship and public engagement at KSU.

When Wood became president, he added a junior college-level course for those wishing to become teachers.

“Most people had been able to start teaching after attending a normal training course for two years,” Butler said. “The step he took was one that would ultimately lead to a four year college status.”

John Hardin, a professor of history at Western Kentucky University in Bowling Green, said Wood was one of the “lesser known presidents.”

“Francis Marion Wood was a very interesting person in the sense he was a product of the institution,” Hardin said.

Wood served one year as president of KSU, succeeding Russell P. Green.

Hardin wrote an article about Wood and Green for the Filson Club History Quarterly. The article, which was published in April 1995, was titled “Green Pinckney Russell, Francis Marion Wood, and Kentucky Normal and Industrial Institute, 1912-1929: A Study in Politics and Race.”

In it, Hardin details what happened to Wood during his presidency and the politics involving the university’s top seat. 

Wood continued his career in education after leaving KSU and moved to Baltimore. In 1925, he became supervisor of the city’s black schools. One year later he was promoted to director, overseeing 15 schools with 53 principals and 23,000 students, Hardin said.

“Based upon what I’ve been able to find, he was well-liked as a supervisor of all those schools,” he said. “He had a fairly successful career in Baltimore after he left Frankfort. He had a fairly positive career in Glasgow and Barren County. His experience at Kentucky State was somewhat of a challenge. He took that experience and was able to become effective in terms of supervisor of the segregated schools in Baltimore.”

Philip J. Merrill, president of the Nanny Jack and Company, an African-American heritage consulting firm in Baltimore, said Wood was the third choice for the position in Baltimore to work with the segregated school system. The other candidates were also from Kentucky, he said.

In 1931, Wood was confirmed an honorary degree by Morgan College now known as Morgan State University in Baltimore.

Three years later, he was elected president of the National Association of Teachers in Colored Schools and worked from an office in Washington D.C.

“Interestingly enough Dr. Wood and his wife, Nellie, and their four children all go on to be well received in the Baltimore community for many generations,” said Merrill. “His only living descendant is in his late 80s. All of them made major contributions to life in Baltimore City in academics, entertainment and publishing.”

Wood’s youngest son, James, who is nicknamed “Biddy,” is his only living relative, Merrill said.

Francis M. Wood High School, an alternative high school in Baltimore, is named in Wood’s honor.

“Their model is success is the only option,” Merrill said.

Merrill recently made a presentation at the school.

“I was very proud that they have a portrait of Francis M. Wood hanging in the building and they have a little blurb on his life,” he said.

Wood died at the age of 65 in 1943 at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore.

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