bhcp3_12.jpg (30528 bytes)
Heritage of Black Highlanders Collection, UNCAsheville Ramsey Library
W. J. Trent and J. W. Walker



Testimonial Dinner


in recognition of twenty-seven years of
unselfish service
as President of Livingstone College
Salisbury, NC

FEBRUARY 12, 1952

given by
The Board of Bishops of the A. M. E. Zion Church
The Trustees of Livingstone College
The Committee and Faculty of Livingstone College


…As We Know Him

William Johnson Trent was born at Charlotte, North Carolina, in1873, and at the age of six moved with his family to Pineville. He was educated in the public schools and at Livingstone College, receiving his Bachelor of Arts degree in the Class on 1898. In a class that included George C. Clement and James W. Walker, he took the highest honors. Clement later became Bishop in the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church and Walker a specialist in Tuberculosis.

During his student days Mr. Trent sang in the first musical group organized to sing in the interest of the college. He was in the group that sang at the Atlanta Exposition in 1895 when Dr. Booker T. Washington made his famous "Exposition Address". Together with his classmate J. W. Walker, he organized the first football team at Livingstone College that sponsored the first Negro intercollegiate football contest. That game was staged on the campus of Livingstone College in December, 1892, between Biddle University (now Johnson C. Smith) of Charlotte.

After his graduation, Mr. Trent served in 1898 with the Third North Carolina Regiment during the Spanish-American War. Then followed one year when he worked at Greenville College, an institution sponsored by the Zion Church in Tennessee. In 1900 he went to Asheville where the Y.M.C.A was combined with the Young Men's Institute built by the late George Vanderbilt for Negroes. After 11 years he was transferred from Asheville to Atlanta, Georgia, where he supervised the construction of the new Y.M.C.A. building in that city. This was the most modern and up-to-date building being used by Negroes in the South at the time of its erection. He remained there 14 years prior to his being elected President of his Alma Mater.

In July of 1925, Mr. Trent moved to Salisbury and began his program of improving and expanding the college. "I received my greatest inspiration", he says today, "apart from my Christian home, from Livingstone and those who served here during my student days--Dr. Price, Mrs. Tucker, DR. Edward E. Moore, W. H. Goler, and F. H. Noble". These were some of the pioneers in the early history of the college. "The saddest moments in my administration", he reports, "came when the Price Memorial Building remained unfinished during the Depression. But I never lost faith in the leadership of the A.M.E. Zion Church".

Asked about the happiest moment, he replied, "My happiest moment came when we received the announcement that Livingstone had received the 'A' rating from the Southern Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools. That had been the hope and ideal of the Church and college administration". And he went on to reminisce, "I have always been thrilled by the cooperation of the bishops, ministers, and members of the Zion Church in seeing the needs and rallying to the support of the college. Then, to, receiving grants from the General Education Board and Mr. B. N. Duke of $75,000 and $60,000 respectively, brought great happiness".

A life-long member of the A.M.E. Zion Church, President Trent has attended every General Conference since 1928 and has never lost his zeal for the local church. He is at present Preacher Steward at Soldiers Memorial Church. He is a member of the Board of Education of the City of Salisbury; the Masonic Lodge; Odd Fellows; Boule; Board of Directors of the Hammock Beach Project for Negro Teachers in North Carolina; and the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc.

President Trent has three children who are distinguished leaders. They are: Altona Trent Johns, Music Teacher, Alabama State College, Montgomery; William J. Trent, Jr., Executive Director of the United Negro College Fund, New York City; and Mary Estelle Stewart, Red Cross work in Europe during World War II, and later in Japan.

President Trent loves books and is a prodigious reader of histories and biographies. Many think of him as the best reference for much of the rich history of the church, and are awed at his ability to quote freely from definitive works. Upon the completion of twenty-five years as President of Livingstone, the college faculty started a collection of histories and biographies in the Library to be known as the "Trent Collection". The student body observed a day in his honor with special recognition and presented President Trent with a gold watch appropriately engraved as a symbol of twenty-five years.

This tribute of recognition paid him today by the Zion Church, College Alumni, and many friends bespeaks the faith he has kept with thousands of people during more than fifty years of unselfish service to the public.