Johnson C. Smith University

Coordinates: 35°14′35″N 80°51′22″W / 35.243°N 80.856°W / 35.243; -80.856
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Johnson C. Smith University
Seal of Johnson C. Smith University
Former names
Biddle Memorial Institute (1867–1876)
Biddle University (1876–1923)
MottoSit Lux
Motto in English
Let There Be Light
TypePrivate historically black university
Religious affiliation
Presbyterian Church (USA)
Endowment$51.1 million (Beneficiary of the Duke Endowment, 1924)[1]
PresidentValerie Kinloch
Academic staff

35°14′35″N 80°51′22″W / 35.243°N 80.856°W / 35.243; -80.856
CampusUrban, 105 acres (42 ha)
Colors    Gold and navy blue
NicknameGolden Bulls
Sporting affiliations
NCAA Division IICentral Intercollegiate Athletic Association
MascotThe Golden Bull
Biddle Memorial Hall, Johnson C. Smith University
Johnson C. Smith University is located in North Carolina
Johnson C. Smith University
LocationBeatties Ford Rd. and W. Trade St., Charlotte, North Carolina
Coordinates35°14′37″N 80°51′25″W / 35.2435°N 80.8569°W / 35.2435; -80.8569
Arealess than one acre
Architectural styleRomanesque
NRHP reference No.75001281[4]
Added to NRHPOctober 14, 1975

Johnson C. Smith University (JCSU) is a private historically black university in Charlotte, North Carolina. It is affiliated with the Presbyterian Church (USA) and accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS). The university awards Bachelor of Science, Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Social Work, and Master of Social Work degrees.


Postcard, c. 1930s–1940s
Postcard, c. 1930s–1940s
Biddle Memorial Hall

Johnson C. Smith University was established on April 7, 1867, as the Biddle Memorial Institute at a meeting of the Catawba Presbytery in the old Charlotte Presbyterian Church. Mary D. Biddle donated $1,400 to the school. The school was then named after her late husband, Henry Jonathan Biddle, who had died after the Battle of Glendale in 1862. The corresponding women's school was Scotia Seminary (now Barber-Scotia College).[5]

In 1876, the charter was changed by the legislature of the State of North Carolina and the name became Biddle University, under which name the institution operated until 1923.

In 1891, Biddle University elected Daniel J. Sanders as the first African-American as president of a four-year institution in the south.

Johnson Crayne Smith
1870–1884 Stephen Mattoon
1884–1885 William Alexander Holliday
1886–1891 William F. Johnson
1891–1907 Daniel J. Sanders
1907–1947 Henry Lawrence McCrorey
1947–1956 Hardy Liston
1956–1957 James W. Seabrook
1957–1968 Rufus P. Perry
1968–1972 Lionel Newsome
1973–1982 Wilbert Greenfield
1983–1994 Robert Albright
1994–2008 Dorothy Cowser Yancy
2008–2018 Ronald L. Carter
2018–2023 Clarence D. Armbrister[6]
2023–present Valerie Kinloch[7][8]

From 1921 to 1922, Jane Berry Smith donated funds to build a theological dormitory, a science hall, a teachers' cottage, a memorial gate, and an endowment in memory of her late husband, Johnson C. Smith. She later donated funds for five more buildings and a campus church. In recognition, the board of trustees voted to change the name of the institution to Johnson C. Smith University.

In 1924, James B. Duke established the Duke Endowment. While the largest share of that the endowment's earnings are allocated to support Duke University, Duke's donation required that 4% of its earnings be given to the university.[9]

In 1932, the university's charter was amended, providing for the admission of women. The 65-year-old institution for men then became partially coeducational. The first residence hall for women, named in memory of James B. Duke, was dedicated in 1940. In 1941, women were admitted to the freshman class. In 1942, the university was a fully coeducational institution.

JCSU joined the United Negro College Fund in 1944 as a founding member. This fund was organized primarily to help church-related schools of higher learning to revamp their training programs, to expand their physical plants, to promote faculty growth and to create new areas of service.[10]

Biddle Memorial Hall is on the National Register of Historic Places.


  • 1867: The Henry J. Biddle Memorial Institute was founded by Samuel C. Alexander and Willis L. Miller. Mary D. Biddle, an excellent churchwoman of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, who, through appeals in one of the church papers, pledged $1,400 to the school. In appreciation of this first and generous contribution, friends requested that Biddle name the newly established school after her late husband, Major Henry Biddle. [11]
  • 1867: The first class sessions were held in May in "Audience Chamber" of Seventh Street Presbyterian Church, then located in a section called "Log Town."[12]
  • 1868: The permanent location for the school was established via the donation of eight acres (3.2 ha) of land from Colonel W. R. Myers.[12]
  • 1869: Biddle Institute officially opens on the present site in September[12]
  • 1869: The first president, Stephen Mattoon, was elected on October 9, 1869[12]
  • 1871: The first class, made up of three students, graduated from the Seminary. Those students were B. F. McDowell, Calvin McCurdey, Eli Walker. [12]
  • 1873: Twelve additional acres (4.9 ha) of land were purchased, extending the current site to 20 acres (8.1 ha). [12]
  • 1876: Biddle Institute changes its name to Biddle University. [12]
  • 1883: The Administration Building was erected. Additional land was acquired extending the site to 24 acres (9.7 ha). [12]
  • 1884: William A. Holliday is elected as the second president of the university. [12]
  • 1885: Stephen Mattoon returns to serve again, this time as interim president. [12]
  • 1886: William F. Johnson is elected as the third president of the university. [12]
  • 1891: Daniel J. Sanders is the first African-American elected as the president of the university. [12]
  • 1892: Biddle University competes in the first intercollegiate football game between two historically Black colleges, winning against Livingstone College. [12]
  • 1894: Biddle University holds its Quatro-Centennial Celebration. [12]
  • 1895: Carter Hall, the first substantial dormitory, was erected. The dormitory was named in after Miss Mary A. Carter of Geneva, NY in honor of the donation she provided for its construction. [12]
  • 1895: “The Gold and Blue” are named the official school colors, making their debut on Easter. [12]
  • 1896: Additional acreage was acquired, extending the size of the campus to sixty acres (24 ha). [12]
  • 1905: The first student newspaper, The Argus, begins publication. [12]
  • 1907: Henry Lawrence McCrore is elected president upon the death of President Daniel J. Sanders. [12]
  • 1911: Carnegie Library was erected with the aid of funding from the Carnegie Fund. [12]
  • 1917: Biddle University celebrates its Fiftieth Anniversary. [12]
  • 1917: Fifteen acres (6.1 ha) of land are generously donated to the university, a donation from the daughters of Stephen Mattoon. This donation increases the size of the campus to 75 acres (30 ha). [12]
  • 1921: After the death of her husband, Johnson C. Smith (Crayne) (August 20, 1919), Mrs. Jane Berry Smith is interested in identifying worthwhile causes to donate to that would be of the most benefit. She becomes interested in Biddle University through her association with McCrorey and begins her benefactions to the university. [12]
  • 1921: The first Greek letter organization is established. The Rho chapter of Omega Psi Phi fraternity was chartered on November 7, 1921. [12]
  • 1922: The Science Hall and Johnson C. Smith Theological Dormitory are erected. [12]
  • 1923: Biddle University in renamed Johnson C. Smith University by the board of trustees and the Division of Missions for Colored people in honor of the concerns and contributions of Mrs. Jane Berry Smith. The Charter of the university was amended on March 1, 1923, to legalize the name change. To keep the memory of Major Henry J. Biddle alive, the Administration Building was renamed “Biddle Memorial Hall”. [12]
  • 1923: Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity is established on campus. The Alpha Omicron chapter is established on May 4, *1923. [12]
  • 1924: James B. Duke creates an endowment for schools, hospitals, and retired and disabled ministers. Four educational institutions are added to the endowment: Trinity College (now Duke University), Furman University, Davidson College, and Johnson C. smith University. [12]
  • 1927: Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity is the third national Greek letter organization to be chartered. The Alpha Epsilon chapter is established on December 10, 1927. [12]
  • 1927: The Alpha Epsilon chapter of Phi Beta Sigma fraternity is established late in 1927. [12]
  • 1929: Jane Berry Smith dies. [12]
  • 1931: Johnson C. Smith University holds its first Founders Day Celebration[12]
  • 1932: In 1932, the university's charter was amended, providing for the admission of women to the senior division. The 65-year-old institution for men then became partially coeducational. [11]
  • 1933: Johnson C. Smith University is given an "A" rating by Southern Association of Schools and Colleges. [12]
  • 1934: The university joins the American Council on Education as a full member. [12]
  • 1940: The Duke Residence Hall for women is built and named in honor of James B. Duke. [12]
  • 1941: Women were admitted to the freshman class. [12]
  • 1942: Johnson C. Smith celebrates its Diamond Jubilee[12]
  • 1943: Hardy Liston takes over the Office of Executive Vice President. [12]
  • 1944: The Gamma Lambda chapter of Delta Sigma Theta sorority is founded on February 19, 1944. [12]
  • 1944: Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority charters the Gamma Delta chapter the last week in February 1944. [12]
  • 1945: Johnson C. Smith University joins the United Negro College Fund as a founding member. [11]
  • 1947: President Henry Lawrence McCrorey retires after forty years of service. Hardy Liston is elected president. [12]
  • 1947: Carter Hall is renovated, with a new structure being erected within the existing hull of the building. [12]
  • 1951: Henry Lawrence McCrorey dies July 13, 1951[12]
  • 1952: A revision of the university's charter is made that officially deletes reference to race. [12]
  • 1955: In November 1955, the Henry Lawrence McCrorey Theological Hall was dedicated and provided a new home for the 88-year-old seminary and its library. [11]
  • 1956: President Hardy Liston dies on October 20, 1956. J. W. Seabrook steps in as Interim President. [12]
  • 1957: Rufus Patterson Perry is elected as president in April of that year. [12]
  • 1961: The new gymnasium is erected. [12]
  • 1962: Hardy Liston Residence Hall is erected. The building is dedicated later in April 1963. [12]
  • 1965: The University Memorial Student Union is built. [12]
  • 1966: Martin Luther King Jr. speaks on campus as a part of the Centennial Celebration that began October 12, 1966. [12]
  • 1967: The university holds the main Centennial Celebration on April 7, 1967, in the new gymnasium with the theme of “New Dimensions in Higher Education”. [12]
  • 1967: Three major construction projects are completed: The James B. Duke Memorial Library, Myers Hall (a dormitory for men), and Sanders Hall (a dormitory for women). [12]
  • 1968: Rufus Patterson Perry resigns from his position as president. [12]
  • 1968: The new science center is constructed. [12]
  • 1969: Lionel H. Newsom becomes the ninth president of the university[12]
  • 1969: The Seminary moves to Atlanta Georgia and merges with the Interdenominational Theological Center. [12]
  • 1972: The overpass connecting the two sides of the campus is erected over Beatties Ford road. [12]
  • 1972: Wilbert Greenfield becomes the tenth President of Johnson C. Smith University[12]
  • 1976: The Mary Irwin Belk Early Childhood Education Center is erected. [12]
  • 1983: Robert L. Albright becomes the eleventh president of the university. [12]
  • 1985: Greenfield Hall is erected and named in honor of past President Wilbert Greenfield. [11]
  • 1986: The Lionel H. Newsom Humanities Building is built. [11]
  • 1990: The Robert L. Albright Honors College Center opens[11]
  • 1991: The Faculty Center opens[11]
  • 1993: The Edward E. Crutchfield Jr. Center for Integrated Studies is built[11]
  • 1994: The New Residence Hall opens[11]
  • 1994: Dorothy Cowser Yancy becomes the first woman and twelfth President of Johnson C. Smith University[11]
  • 1997: The Technology Center is built. [11]
  • 2003: JCSU opens a new state-of-the-art academic and sports facility, the Irwin Belk Complex. [11]
  • 2008: Ronald L. Carter becomes the thirteenth president. [11]
  • 2018: Clarence D. Armbrister, J.D. becomes the fourteenth President of Johnson C. Smith University. [11]


Johnson C. Smith University offers 24 different degrees to undergraduate students and one to postgraduates. Each student earns his or her degree through one of three colleges: the College of Arts and Letters, the College of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics), or the College of Professional Studies.

The Robert L. Albright Honors College is available to qualified high-achieving undergraduate students at JCSU.[13] The college is named after the 11th president of the university.

Metropolitan College offers undergraduate degree programs to adults to enhance their opportunities for career advancement and success. Metropolitan College provides students with flexible, convenient schedules and a variety of course styles including on-campus and online courses, as well as a Flex-Option for courses that include both online and in-class instruction. Evening courses at Metropolitan College are offered in criminology, social work, and business administration.


The university is organized into three colleges:[14]

  • College of Arts and Letters
  • College of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM)
  • College of Professional Studies.

James B. Duke Memorial Library[edit]

The James B. Duke Memorial Library was built in 1967 in memory of James Buchanan Duke, a major benefactor to the university. Carnegie Library, the existing library at that time, was not large enough to meet the expanding academic programming and increasing enrollment. [12] In 1998, the library completed a $7 million yearlong modernization and reconstruction to allow the building to serve as an information hub in a digital age.[11]

The James B. Duke Memorial Library is also the home of a 8.5 by 20 feet (2.6 by 6.1 m). mural created painted by Philadelphia artist Paul F. Keene Jr. Keene that captures the history, growth, and development of the university. The vibrant mural illustrates the founding of the university by S. L. Alexander and W. L. Miller on April 7, 1867, the original two students, the outstanding contributors to the school, historic buildings, and the first seven presidents of the university. The mural features a portrait of Jane Berry Smith who donated several buildings to the university in the early 1920s and for whom the board of trustees renamed the school from Biddle University. Also featured is James Buchanan Duke, a prominent North Carolina business man, who established an endowment in 1924 that included the university and the man for whom the library is named. [12]

Student activities[edit]

Due to its location near downtown Charlotte, North Carolina, there are many social and cultural activities for JCSU students and faculty to enjoy, including professional sporting events, theater/movies, concerts, art exhibits, bands, chorale, poetry readings, and dance, among others.

Fraternities and sororities[edit]

All of the National Pan-Hellenic Council organizations currently have chapters at Johnson C. Smith University.


Student-athletes compete in intercollegiate and intramural athletics. JCSU is a member of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), Division II and the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA). Its intercollegiate sports programs include basketball, bowling, cross-country, football, golf, softball, volleyball, tennis, and track and field. Its teams are nicknamed the Golden Bulls.

Notable alumni[edit]

Name Class years Notability Reference(s)
Tim Beamer 1971 Professional football player.
Trezzvant Anderson American journalist, publicist, and war correspondent.
Frederick C. Branch 1942 First African American officer in the United States Marine Corps
Tyrone Britt 1967 Professional basketball player.
Vanderbilt Brown 1907 One of the first physicians to finish training in World War I.
Mickey Casey Professional baseball player.
Eva M. Clayton 1955 Clayton and Mel Watt were the first African Americans elected to the House of Representatives from North Carolina since 1898 (since Clayton won the special election, she took office before Watt).
Gregory Clifton Professional football player
Dorothy Counts 1964 One of the first black students admitted to the Harry Harding High School in the United States. After four days of harassment that threatened her safety, her parents forced her to withdraw from the school.
Grover Covington Professional football player and member of the Canadian Football Hall of Fame.
John O. Crosby African-American educator and the first president of what is now North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University.
Daniel Wallace Culp was a pastor, principal, doctor who authored a book about African Americans. He was the "first graduate of Biddle University".
Sadye Curry 1963 First African-American woman to become a gastroenterologist in the United States.
Charlie S. Dannelly 1962 Democratic member of the North Carolina General Assembly representing the state's thirty-eighth Senate district since 1995. [15]
Bill Davis 1963 College football coach.
De'Audra Dix 2009 2008 Division II 1st Team All-American and professional football player.
Edward R. Dudley 1932 First African-American to hold the rank of Ambassador of the United States, serving as ambassador to Liberia (where he had been serving with the rank of minister) from 1949 through 1953.
Bill Dusenbery Professional football player.
Thereasea Elder First African American public health nurse in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Richard Erwin 1947 First black federal judge in North Carolina.
Ferdinand Kwasi Fiawoo 1933 Ghanaian minister of religion, playwright and educator, founder of Zion College, the first secondary school in Ghana's Volta Region.
Malcolm Graham 1985 Democratic member of the North Carolina Senate, representing District 40.
Leford Green 2011 Division II Collegiate Indoor and Outdoor Regional and National Track Athlete of the Year in 2010 and 2011. Green was a member of the 2012 Summer Olympics Jamaican National Olympic Track and Field team.
Chet Grimsley 1978 First white student to garner accolades as All-CIAA and All-American at JCSU and at an HBCU. Author of "White Golden Bull."
Larry D. Hall 1978 Democratic politician who has served in the North Carolina House of Representatives as the member from North Carolina's 29th representative district since 2006.
Norman Washington Harllee was an educator and advocate for African American education in the United States.
Reginald Hawkins 1948 First African-American to run for Governor of North Carolina. Dentist. Civil rights activist who played a central role in integrating Charlotte schools, hospitals, and public spaces.
Bun Hayes 1929 Nicknamed "Bun", professional baseball player.
JoAnn Haysbert Chancellor and Provost of Hampton University. [16]
Henry Aaron Hill 1936 Fluorocarbon chemist who became the first African-American president of the American Chemical Society (ACS).
Quentin Hillsman Head women's college basketball coach for the Syracuse Orange.
Cheris F. Hodges 1999 Author of African-American romance novels.
Delois Huntley as an American civil rights pioneer and one of four black students to integrate Charlotte schools.
Cecil Ivory 1946 Presbyterian minister and civil rights leader in Rock Hill, South Carolina.
Sara Dunlap Jackson 1943 National Archives and Records Administration archivist, Military Archives Division.
Benny Johnson 1970 Professional football player.
J. Charles Jones 1960 Civil rights leader, attorney, co-founder of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), and chairperson of the SNCC's direct action committee.
Edward Joyner 1994 Head men's basketball coach at Hampton University.
Boise Kimber 1981 Baptist minister and civil rights activist.
William Lindsay 1931 nicknamed "Red", professional baseball player.
Sapphira Martin 2011 Co-host on Black Girl Podcast.
Bertha Maxwell-Roddey 1954 African-American educator and the only female founding member of the National Council of Black Studies.
Earl Manigault Rucker Park legend. Attended JCSU for one semester during 1964–65 school year.
Mildred Mitchell-Bateman 1941 African-American physician and medical administrator. She was West Virginia's mental health commissioner in 1962, and was the first woman and African-American to hold the position.
Cary C Mitchell 1983 Nationally known men’s clothier/fashion designer who for years made dress clothes for professional basketball and football players including Tiger Woods and the inaugural game uniform for the Charlotte Bobcats in 2004.
Eddie McGirt 1948 a CIAA football coach legend.
Fred "Curly" Neal 1962 Former member of the Harlem Globetrotters
Pettis Norman 1962 Professional football player.
Trevin Parks 2013 Professional basketball player.
Obie Patterson 1965 Former member of the Maryland House of Delegates
Don Pullen Jazz pianist and organist
Zilner Randolph Jazz trumpeter and music educator
James "Twiggy" Sanders 1974 Harlem Globetrotters member
Jawn Sandifer 1935 Civil rights attorney, judge, and New York State Supreme Court Justice.
Gary Siplin 1976 Politician, Member of the Florida Senate from the 19th district.
Marvin Scott 1966 Republican candidate for U.S. Senate from Indiana in 2004
Chris Smith 1992 Democratic member of the Florida Senate.
Clarence F. Stephens 1938 Ninth African American to receive a Ph.D. in mathematics
John Taylor Professional football player.
Steel Arm Johnny Taylor Professional baseball player.
Evelyn Terry Politician.
John Terry Professional football player.
Sandra L. Townes 1966 District Judge for the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York
Skeets Tolbert Jazz clarinetist
Faya Ora Rose Touré 1969 Civil rights activist, lawyer, and first black female judge in Alabama.
Orval Tucker former professional baseball player.
McKinley Washington Jr. 1958 was an American politician in the state of South Carolina.
Ola B. Watford 1946 geophysicist
Bob Wells 1968 as an American football offensive tackle for the San Diego Chargers of the NFL.
Avon Williams 1940 Tennessee State Senator from 1972 to 1992
Danielle Williams 2014 Jamaican athlete specializing in the sprint hurdles. She is best known for winning the gold medal at the 2015 World Championships.
Shermaine Williams 2011 Jamaican track & field sprinter. First female from Johnson C. Smith University to go to Summer Olympics 2012
Emanuel Wilson NFL running back with the Green Bay Packers.
Draff Young Professional basketball coach.

Notable faculty[edit]

Name Department Notability Reference(s)
Kelly Alexander Professor Democratic member of the North Carolina General Assembly.
Henry A. Hunt Professor Winner of the Spingarn Medal award. In the 1930s Hunt was invited to participate in President Franklin D. Roosevelt's Black Cabinet.
Edward Jackson Football Coach One of the greatest HBCU football coaches of all-time. His all-time coaching record is 141–62–12. His record at JCSU is 30–14–4.
Mary Jackson McCrorey Counselor of women, wife of president H. L. McCrorey. [17]
Jimmie McKee Contributor Founder of Johnson C. Smith University athletic booster program the 100 Club. He became a successful Charlotte businessman, contributing to Johnson C Smith University, NAACP, Colored NC Police Association, Democratic Party and YMCA.
Mike Minter Football Assistant coach Professional football player.
Steve Wilks Football Assistant coach Professional football coach.


  • Parker, Inez Moore (1975). (A Historical Narrative) The Biddle - Johnson C. Smith Story. Charlotte, NC: The Observer Craftman Company.
  • "Founders' Week Observance - History of the University". Johnson C. Smith University.


  1. ^ "Johnson C. Smith University". Archived from the original on 2006-05-14. Retrieved 2006-05-29.
  2. ^ "Instructional Faculty and Class Size" (PDF). Retrieved 2016-09-19.
  3. ^ "Enrollment and Persistence" (PDF). Retrieved 2016-12-13.
  4. ^ "National Register Information System – (#75001281)". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. March 13, 2009.
  5. ^ "The American Missionary Volume 0033 Issue 11 (Nov 1879)". Retrieved 18 September 2016.
  6. ^ "Johnson C. Smith president announces retirement in 'bittersweet moment' at the HBC". Charlotte Observe. January 3, 2023.
  7. ^ "Dr. Valerie Kinloch Appointed President of Johnson C. Smith University". Diverse: Issues In Higher Education. 2023-06-22. Retrieved 2023-09-15.
  8. ^ Moore, Evan (June 21, 2023). "Johnson C. Smith University names new president. She's a familiar name to Charlotte HBCU". Charlotte Observer.
  9. ^ "Trust Indenture" (PDF). Retrieved 2010-01-07.
  10. ^ "United Negro College Fund". Retrieved 2016-09-18.
  11. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p
  12. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae af ag ah ai aj ak al am an ao ap aq ar as at au av aw ax ay az ba bb bc bd be bf bg bh bi bj Moore 1975.
  13. ^ "Johnson C. Smith University - Honors College". Retrieved 18 September 2016.
  14. ^ "Academic Catalog" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2016-12-20. Retrieved 2016-12-14.
  15. ^ "Charlie Dannelly's Biography". Project Vote Smart. Retrieved April 21, 2014.
  16. ^ "Former provost JoAnn Haysbert returning to Hampton University". tribunedigital-dailypress. Retrieved 2018-08-13.
  17. ^ "Woman Gets Degree Doctor of Pedagogy" Pittsburgh Courier (July 5, 1941): 18. via Newspapers.comOpen access icon

External links[edit]