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Charles D. Churchwell

Library administrator and library science professor Charles Darrett Churchwell was born on November 7, 1926 in Dunnellon, Florida to Leeannah DeLaughter Churchwell and John Dozier Churchwell. After graduating from high school, Churchwell joined the United States Army, serving for two years in the U.S. and Philippine Islands. He obtained the rank of Sergeant 4th Grade while acting as his company's clerk. After returning from the armed forces in 1948, Churchwell attended Morehouse College and four years later, he received his B.S. degree in mathematics. Upon graduating, he became a reference assistant at the library of Alabama State College. In 1953, Churchwell graduated from Atlanta University with his M.L.S. degree with a focus on college and university library administration.

Churchwell became an instructor with Prairie View A&M College in Prairie View, Texas in 1954 where he met and married Yvonne Ransom. Two years later, he and Yvonne moved to New York City, New York so he could work as a reference librarian for the New York Public Library (NYPL). After only two years, Churchwell left New York for Illinois to study for his Ph.D. degree in library science at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, becoming a librarian with the school in 1964. After publishing his thesis, entitled Education for Librarianship in the United States: Some Factors which Influenced its Development between 1919 and 1939, Churchwell received his Ph.D. in 1966, the first African American male to earn a Ph.D. degree from the university. The next year, Churchwell became the associate director of the libraries at the University of Houston, becoming the first African American to work for the university during a time of intense segregation. Churchwell became heavily involved with the Black Student Union during this time, working as a liaison during a controversial campus visit by Black Panther Bobby Seale.

In 1970, Churchwell became a professor of library science and director of libraries for Miami University in Ohio, where he redesigned and renovated the library. He moved to Brown University in 1974, working as the university librarian while publishing his book Shaping of American Library Education with the American Library Association (ALA). In 1978, Churchwell began working for Washington University in St. Louis as dean of library services and created a unique endowment to fund the library’s technological services. After nearly a decade in St. Louis, Churchwell became a tenured professor with Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan. He spent the 1990s as dean of the School of Library and Information Studies for Clark Atlanta University, before retiring in 1999.

Churchwell passed away on September 19, 2018.

Charles D. Churchwell was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on October 16, 2007.

Accession Number

A2007.291

Sex

Male

Interview Date

10/16/2007

Last Name

Churchwell

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Middle Name

D.

Schools

Dunnellon School

Morehouse College

Clark Atlanta University

University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign

First Name

Charles

Birth City, State, Country

Dunnellon

HM ID

CHU02

Favorite Season

Fall

State

Florida

Favorite Vacation Destination

None

Favorite Quote

That's Murphy's Law.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Missouri

Birth Date

11/7/1926

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

St. Louis

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Pork Chops

Death Date

9/19/2018

Short Description

Library administrator and library science professor Charles D. Churchwell (1926 - 2018) served as the dean at the School of Library and Information Studies for Clark Atlanta University during the 1990s, was a tenured professor at Wayne State University, served as university librarian for Brown University for four years, and was the first African American faculty member at the University of Houston.

Employment

Clark Atlanta University

Wayne State University

Washington University

Brown University

Miami University

Favorite Color

Beige

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Charles D. Churchwell's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Charles D. Churchwell lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Charles D. Churchwell describes his mother

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Charles D. Churchwell remembers his mother's house

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Charles D. Churchwell describes his father's birthplace and relationship with his mother

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Charles D. Churchwell describes his father's occupation and illness

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Charles D. Churchwell describes his parents' personalities and who he takes after

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Charles D. Churchwell describes his earliest childhood memory

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Charles D. Churchwell recalls his homes in Dunellon, Florida

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Charles D. Churchwell remembers the Dunnellon School in Dunnellon, Florida

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Charles D. Churchwell describes the Second Bethel Baptist Church in Dunnellon, Florida

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Charles D. Churchwell recalls the academics at the Dunnellon School

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Charles D. Churchwell remembers preparing for college at the Dunnellon School

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Charles D. Churchwell recalls joining the U.S. Army

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Charles D. Churchwell reflects upon his experiences in the U.S. Army

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Charles D. Churchwell describes his deployment to the Philippines

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Charles D. Churchwell describes segregation in the U.S. Army

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Charles D. Churchwell recalls his decision to attend Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Charles D. Churchwell recalls his academic difficulties at Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Charles D. Churchwell remembers Benjamin Mays' emphasis on education

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Charles D. Churchwell remembers Benjamin Mays' opposition to segregation

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Charles D. Churchwell describes his peers at Morehouse College, pt. 1

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Charles D. Churchwell describes his peers at Morehouse College, pt. 2

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Charles D. Churchwell recalls studying math at Morehouse College

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Charles D. Churchwell recalls the mentorship of Virginia Lacy Jones

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Charles D. Churchwell remembers the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Charles D. Churchwell recalls working at the New York Public Library

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Charles D. Churchwell remembers the birth of his first daughter

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Charles D. Churchwell recalls earning a Ph.D. degree at the University of Illinois

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Charles D. Churchwell recalls joining the University of Houston in Houston, Texas

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Charles D. Churchwell describes the advice of Dean Robert M. Downs

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Charles D. Churchwell recalls the assassination of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Charles D. Churchwell recalls directing the library at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Charles D. Churchwell remembers his transition to Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Charles D. Churchwell describes his daughters' education

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Charles D. Churchwell describes his son-in-law

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Charles D. Churchwell recalls leaving the Brown University library

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Charles D. Churchwell recalls transitioning to Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Charles D. Churchwell describes his library directorship at Washington University in St. Louis

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Charles D. Churchwell remembers helping his employees attend library school

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Charles D. Churchwell recalls leaving Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Charles D. Churchwell recalls transitioning to Clark Atlanta University in Atlanta, Georgia

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Charles D. Churchwell describes the digital library endowment at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Charles D. Churchwell remembers teaching at Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Charles D. Churchwell recalls his career at Clark Atlanta University in Atlanta, Georgia, pt. 1

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Charles D. Churchwell recalls his career at Clark Atlanta University in Atlanta, Georgia, pt. 2

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Charles D. Churchwell describes the Trevor Arnett Library in Atlanta, Georgia

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Charles D. Churchwell describes how he would like to be remembered

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Charles D. Churchwell narrates his photographs

DASession

1$1

DATape

5$6

DAStory

6$1

DATitle
Charles D. Churchwell remembers helping his employees attend library school
Charles D. Churchwell describes the digital library endowment at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri
Transcript
There were no professional librarians on--black, on the Washington University [Washington University in St. Louis, St. Louis, Missouri] staff, no professional librarians. And by sheer accident one day, I discovered there was a young black man in the copy room. His name is Rudolph Clay, and I went back to my office and asked the secretary to give me his folder. She gave me his folder and I discovered that he was a graduate of Washington University, but the only job he could find was that clerical job in that copy room, and I called him up to the office and asked him had he ever thought about becoming a librarian. He said, "Yes, sir, but I can't afford it." And he said, "My mother is, my mother is ill and I'm her sole support, so I can't afford it." And I told him, I say, "But if you could get a scholarship, would you go?" And he said, "Yes, sir." I knew the dean of library schools at several schools, University of Illinois [University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Champaign-Urbana, Illinois], University of North Carolina [University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, North Carolina], and the University of Michigan [Ann Arbor, Michigan], and I called Russ Bidlack [Russell E. Bidlack] at Michigan and I told him--this was during the era when they were trying to diversify staffs in early--and just couldn't find (air quotes) qualified candidates. I told Russ, I say, "I've got a young man here who I think would make an excellent librarian, but he can't afford to--the tuition at Michigan, can't afford to come." And he said, said, "Church [HistoryMaker Charles D. Churchwell], if you recommend him, I'll find the money." And he did. And so I recommended, so Rudolph went, and today he's now head of reference at Washington University. And I discovered the same thing existed for a young lady--black young lady who was in the art library as a clerk, and she was a single mother and I talked with her. She would like to be a librarian but she couldn't afford it because she had a daughter. Now, Rudolph is now at Michigan, going on through his program. So I called Russ again, I said, "I've got another case, but I think she'll make a good librarian." I said, "But she has a daughter." He said, "Well, we'll see what we can do." He found one for Cheryl--that was her name, Cheryl Holland, found her in the married student housing, found a (unclear), and we sent her to Michigan. Today, she's a reference librarian at Washington University. Those are the things I'm most proud about, as I look back over my career. Other things I've done--excellent things, like improving the library system, are quite significant. One of 'em is quite unique, but I--when I think about the people I was able to help, that's the most satisfying.$Tell us about the endowment at Washington University [Washington University in St. Louis, St. Louis, Missouri] (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) Yeah. Every university has had problems with advanced technology because of the cost. When I was at Washington University and we had to automate the library, I made a recommendation, which the chancellor accepted, was that we should not automate unless we have money to continue the cost of operation. Otherwise, I said, automating would be like telephone service--you just get the instrument. The telephone company will give you that instrument, because that's gonna what they make their money off; they make their money off the service, same with computer technology. They don't make their money off the hardware; they make their money off the upkeep and a continued upgrading, so you got to have a way to keep it going. So I made a recommendation that, "Don't automate unless you have a way to continue to pay for it." And my staff and I recommended about how much it would take, and I went to my supervisor and he recommended that I go to the vice chancellor for finance and make the proposal to him, and I told him. He say, "Well, Charles [HistoryMaker Charles D. Churchwell], what you need to do is go to Bill Danforth [William H. Danforth] and convince him that you need an endowment, and of that annual interest, you use only half of it annually to pay for the operation annually, and let the other half plow back in so that it will continue to maintain its buying power." Made that recommendation, so before I left, we set up a $4 million endowment--automation endowment. Today, that endowment brings in more money than my successor [Shirley K. Baker] is able to spend, so she has doled out money throughout the campus where there's a need, because it's in the 20s now--millions. It's the only university in the country that has that kind of money for automation, and they have, according to the chancellor, they have the best automated library in America, because it has the money to do it because of that endowment that I recommended. And it's, it's--you go over there now and look at what the students have in the cafeteria. Oh, a student can go in and, and computers are available for them; laptops are available for them to do whatever they want to do because of the money they get from that endowment. Well, the non-human thing--that's the other thing I'm proud of, but the--I'm proudest of the people I was able to help along the way.