2023 Black History Month Avenue Banners

The City of Gallatin is celebrating Black History Month with avenue banners featuring influential black residents of Gallatin’s past and present. 16 people and places were chosen with the help of the Union High School Museum Board led by historian Velma Brinkley.

“This group represents a cross-section of African-American life,” said Brinkley. “It demonstrates that African Americans are involved in all types of careers successfully.”

The idea of featuring local residents on the banners was mentioned during Mayor Paige Brown’s State of the City address last year. The mayor said the community embraced the banners installed during last year’s Black History Month that included national figures like Martin Luther King, Ida B. Wells and Katherine Johnson.

“Gallatin has a very real connection and appreciation of our history that helps preserve the character of this place,” said Gallatin Mayor Paige Brown. “I’m very thankful that Velma and her team did the research that we can share during Black History Month.”

Brinkley says the banners should be of interest to everyone in Sumner County regardless of race. “There is no such thing as black history being separated from white history. That’s not the way people live. History is a tapestry, a woven tapestry of all persons who were involved and these individuals are very much representative of that.”

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The following is the content featured on Gallatin’s Avenue Banners:

Fred Bailey - Founder of nonprofits Children Are People and Susie Brannon McJimpsey Center, Fred Bailey was born in 1953, the 10th of 15 children. Bailey was diagnosed blind at the age of 10. He graduated the TN School for the Blind at 21 and TSU at 35. He is the Author of “Nowhere Near the Bottom.” His favorite saying is, “Life does not care about your circumstances. Life demands that you adapt and adjust.”

Colored Fair - Purported to be the first African American owned agriculture fairground in America, the Blythe Street Fair was conceived, managed and promoted by its owners. The fair was purchased in July 1870 by Mack Randolph, Arthur Banks, Willie Baker, Dock Blythe, John Banks and Henry Ward for $650.

Dr. William Wilson - Born in Marshall County, Wilson graduated Meharry Medical College School of Pharmacy in 1906. In 1915, he moved to Gallatin where he and I.C. Ramsey, M.D. opened a pharmacy and medical practice. A philanthropist, he supported several churches and supplied Union High School with uniforms and sports equipment. His funeral was held at Union High School in 1963.

Dr. J. Deotha Malone - Malone was the first African American woman elected to the Gallatin City Council in 1969 and served for more than 20 years. The Council Chambers bear her name. She was among the longest serving educators in Tennessee serving fifty-five years, and was a supervisor of elementary educators in Sumner County. Malone held two doctoral degrees, one honorary and the other earned from the University of Alabama.

Dr. Eric Moore - Moore, a Gallatin native, is the current Deputy to the Commanding General, U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command at the Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland. He holds a Ph.D. in Neurophysiology from Meharry Medical College and a B.A. Degree in Biology from Fisk University.

Reverend Hillary Wattwood Key - Born on December 18, 1834, the third child to slaves Benjamin and Hannah Key, Hillary Wattwood Key was owned by Isaac Franklin. Key founded the Key Memorial Methodist Church and 13 other churches. He was the incorporator of Lebanon/Gallatin Telegraph Company in 1869. He was elected to the Gallatin City Council on Dec. 5, 1868.

William "Bubba" Dunn - A baseball standout from Gallatin High School and Volunteer State, Dunn was drafted by the Kansas City Royals in 1989. After his MLB career ended due to an injury, he coached and officiated youth leagues, sponsored camps, gave private lessons and was assistant football and baseball coach at GHS. Two scholarships are awarded yearly in his memory; one at GHS and the other at First Baptist Church.

Union High School - Built on Winchester Street in 1922, the Rosenwald Building was the first high school for black students. The first graduation was May 1924, and the last was May 1950 when grades 9-12 were moved to the new Union High School on Small Street, which operated until May 1970.

Reverend Peter Vertrees -   Born Dec. 16, 1840 in Kentucky, Vertrees was an educator, pastor and Confederate soldier (1861-1865). On the first Sunday in June 1880, he baptized 101 converts. He graduated Roger Williams University in 1888, founded seven Baptist churches (five in Sumner County), helped establish seven Rosenwald schools and enjoyed 40 years teaching and 61 years pastoring Sumner County churches.

John Vertrees Malone - He was active and influential in education, religion, community and civic endeavors. Malone worked 42 years in education at GHS, UHS and Durham's Chapel. He served more than 30 years as First Baptist Church Deacon, Treasurer, and Sunday School Teacher, and was the first African American Sumner County Grand Jury Foreman. Malone earned a B.S. degree at TSU and the M.S. degree from Fisk University.

James Herbert White - Born to illiterate parents and grandson of ex-slaves, White graduated from A & I State College in 1924 and later became assistant principal at Union High School. Subsequently he was principal at Hardeman County and Allen-White High School (named for him). In 1948, he was appointed president of Lane College. He founded and served as president at Mississippi Valley State University.

Kenneth Moore - Moore graduated from Gallatin High School in 1985 and Fisk University in 1989. He graduated from the University of Texas School of Law with a Juris Doctorate in 1992. He founded Sigma Electronic Discovery Consulting, LLC in 2015 and remains owner. He also serves as Director for the international tech and consulting company HaystackID. Inc.

Bishop Lula Mai Swanson - Born in 1907, Bishop Swanson was the eldest of nine children. At age 14, she was married to Abraham Swanson. Bishop Swanson founded and pastored three Jehovah Churches of God. She owned and managed a grocery store and used proceeds from that venture to build a nursing home on Pace Street in 1954. She hosted a broadcast, “Bringing the Church to You” each Sunday on WHIN radio.

Onnessia Shacole Head - Rucker Stuart Middle School 2021 Teacher of the Year, Head has been an educator for 16 years. Current Department Head at Pope Preparatory School, she earned both B.S. and M.Ed. degrees from TSU and Ed.S. from Union University. Head presently serves with Leadership Gallatin 2023, Unlimited Potential Food Pantry and Shalom Zone.

Dr. Derrick Jackson - A prominent Tennessee pastor who was born in Itta Bena, Mississippi. Jackson is an entrepreneur, accountant, college instructor, philanthropist, published author and CEO. He founded “Together Sumner,” a community organization that addresses racial reconciliation in Gallatin. He graduated Prairie View (BBA), Vanderbilt (M.T.S.) and Lipscomb (D.Min.). A Gallatin Street bears his name.

John "Bud" Rogan - Born to ex-slaves in Sumner County in 1868, Rogan was the fourth of twelve children. At 8'9.5”he is the tallest African American ever recorded and the second tallest man in world history. Unable to stand or walk, he rode a self-made cart pulled by goats. Rogan made a living selling his drawings and picture postcards of himself at the Gallatin L&N Train Depot.

The banners will remain displayed through February and will be replaced in mid-March when the Spring banners are erected.

If you have suggestions for residents who should be honored or would like information about other initiatives in Gallatin, please contact the Office of Mayor Paige Brown at 615-451-5961.