Born in 1865,
Mr. James Dooley Sr., a black educator and visionary who graduated from Knoxville College despite his family economic hardships.
He became a teacher and taught at various schools throughout the southern United States.
While teaching he saw an urgent educational need
for black students that had fallen to hands of segregation in Alabama. This exposure validated his dream and vision of creating
a faith based learning environment for black students. His ability to raise funds allowed him to realize his dream in 1911
with the founding of Southern Normal School.
He dedicated his life to the development of his
students and the community around them. He became one of the “Great” pioneers of black boarding schools in
the United States.
Mr. Dooley died in 1930 but the school remained open for a total of 86 years with the support of
the Reform Church of America. His gravesite lies in the center of the campus surrounded almost 400 acres
of suburban land from educational buildings, dormitories to a Chapel that sits across the main street.
Today, the Southern
Normal Campus is now owned by Alabama State University and is listed as a historical landmark in Alabama’s register
of Landmarks and heritage.