Heritage of Black Highlanders Collection, UNCAsheville Ramsey Library
W. J. Trent and J. W. Walker
DOCTOR WILLIAM JOHNSON TRENT (1873-1963)
ForDOCTOR WILLIAM JOHNSON TRENT
in recognition of twenty-seven years of
as President of Livingstone College
FEBRUARY 12, 1952
The Board of Bishops of the A. M. E. Zion Church
The Trustees of Livingstone College
The Committee and Faculty of Livingstone College
WILLIAM JOHNSON TRENT
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.