History of Dr. Romeo B. Garrett

The Office of Diversity and Inclusion is housed in the Romeo B. Garrett Cultural Center. The Center is named in honor of Dr. Romeo B. Garrett who was the first African-American professor at Bradley University.

In 1947, Romeo B. Garrett was the first of three people to receive a degree in the newly established master's degree program at the University, and was hired as a full-time sociology professor. He was the first African-American to receive a master's degree from and to serve as a professor at Bradley University. As a young man, he was aware of the lack of information about blacks in both history books and the public eye. He thus began an extensive documentation of the accomplishments of blacks in all fields.

The first item to enter his collection was a photograph of Frederick Douglass, about whom his grandfather had often spoken. Garrett's grandfather was a former slave and had met the famous orator and abolitionist in 1863. Over the span of six decades, his collection of letters, photographs, signatures, stamps, articles, books, documents, and memorabilia eventually grew to fill six file cabinets in his Bradley University office. A sampling of this collection, entitled "The Black Experience in America," has been exhibited annually at the Peoria Public Library for the past 20 years.

The Garrett Scholarship was established in his honor in 1964. Dr. Garrett retired from teaching at the University in 1976 and received the status of Professor Emeritus. As a teacher, Garrett worked hard to increase student awareness of other cultures and motivated them to study black history. He also encouraged the administrators to hire more black teachers and staff. Throughout his time on the Bradley campus, Garrett worked to bring prominent blacks to lecture or perform on campus and did his own speaking to numerous classes and groups about black achievements. Garrett authored two books: 'Famous First Facts about Negroes' and 'The President and the Negro.'

Off-campus, Garrett was a member of the local NAACP and Urban League and served as the associate minister of the Zion Baptist Church in Peoria for almost 40 years.

Romeo B. Garrett died in March of 2000. However, Garrett's legacy is more than secure in the Bradley community. Over the years, more than 400 students have been able to attend Bradley with the help of numerous scholarships created in his honor.

"I have an appreciation for all people, regardless of race. I want to see improved race relations - the day when there will be no prejudice. I want to see the brotherhood of man. I am a man who loves all people; white, black, young, and old. We must be patient and we must love all people regardless of race."

Dr. Romeo B. Garrett