Charles J. Daniel, Sr. – Daniel Gymnasium
By Maurice B. Jones
Few families in America lay claim to the exceptional educational attainment and contributions of the Daniel family, especially during a time of racial injustice. The family exemplifies strength of African-Americans to improve themselves despite harsh adverse conditions.
Charles James Daniel (1845-1916) and Carrie Green Daniel (1866-1943), a husband and wife team of educators, were role models of their time. They took advantage of all the schooling opportunities available to African Americans at the time.
Charles was born in 1845 in Louisa County, Virginia and lived with his father, learning his trade in shoemaking until around 1870. Charles’ grandmother, Maria, had three brothers, one being John Mercer Langston who served as the first president of Virginia Normal and Collegiate Institute from 1886-1887. Charles was the second cousin of renowned poet Langston Hughes.
In 1871 he entered the Richmond Institute (now Virginia Union University), graduating from the Normal Department in 1877 and the Academic Department in 1878. After graduating, he organized the Alumni Association and studied law at Howard University for one year before deciding to become a teacher. He accepted a teaching position at The Danville School (later renamed Westmoreland) in Danville, Virginia, eventually becoming the second African American principal. There he met and married teacher Carrie Green. She was twenty-three and he was forty-four years old. He served as principal until he was invited to become the Secretary of Virginia Normal and Collegiate Institute (now Virginia State University) in 1888.
Charles and Carrie Green had eight children; seven were born on campus in Old Virginia Hall, including Robert P. Daniel who served as the fifth President of Virginia State College. Six of the eight children completed bachelors and masters degrees and five obtained Ph.D.’s.
Dr. Vattel Elbert Daniel (1890-1971) attended Virginia Normal and Industrial Institute and graduated as valedictorian of the class of 1914 of Virginia Union University. He earned a M.A. from the University of Colorado and Ph.D. from the University of Chicago. Before his military service in World War I, he taught at Armstrong High School in Richmond, Virginia and became Professor of Sociology and Dean at Wiley College in Marshall, Texas. In 1943 he became Dean of the Graduate School at Alabama State College (now University) in Montgomery and after retiring he returned to Wiley as Professor and Co-Chairman of the Division of Social Studies until 1966. He was a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc.
Dr. Sadie Iola Daniel (1892-1975) graduated as the valedictorian of her class at Virginia Normal and Industrial Institute. She graduated summa cum laude from Fisk University after only two years and magna cum laude with a B.A. three years later. She accepted an appointment as one of the first African American teachers at Armstrong High, where she remained for seven years. After teaching at Dunbar High in Washington, D.C., she rose through
the ranks at Miners Teachers College (now the University of D.C.) becoming a professor of social studies and briefly assistant dean of students. Through the years she continued her education, earning a master’s and certificate of advanced studies from Columbia University and a Ph.D. from New York University. She served many terms as alumni trustee and assistant secretary of the Fisk University Board of Trustees. She was a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.
Charles J. Daniel, Jr. (1894-1943) studied brick masonry at Saint Paul’s College in Lawrenceville, Virginia. After age thirty, he decided to return to school to pursue a standard high school education. He enrolled as a freshman at Bluestone Harmony High and Industrial School in Keysville, Virginia. After graduation, he continued his education at Fayetteville State Normal School (now Fayetteville State University) in North Carolina. For many years, he was a school principal in Wake County, near Raleigh, NC.
Dr. William Andrew Daniel (1895-1970) graduated as an honor student from Virginia Normal and Industrial Institute and also received a B.A. from Virginia Union University in 1917. After teaching foreign languages for one year at Storer College in West Virginia, he volunteered for military service during World War I. He rose through the ranks to first lieutenant and after the war he earned M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in Sociology from the University of Chicago. After employment at several federally sponsored agencies, William served as professor of sociology, dean-registrar and Interim President at Delaware State College (now University). He also served on the Board of Trustees of Talladega College in Alabama and Dillard University in Louisiana.
Carrie Ora Daniel Prunty (1898-1998) was the fifth and last child to graduate from Virginia Normal and Industrial Institute. She was an honor student there and at Hartshorn College for Women (merged with Virginia Union University), where she completed an academic course in two years. She graduated cum laude with a B.A. in English from Fisk University. She earned a M.A. in Counseling from Marshall College in Huntington, West Virginia. She was a longtime English teacher, librarian and guidance counselor at Kimball West Virginia High School and retired in 1964 after 31 years as an educator. In 1966, she moved to Flint, MI with one of her daughters, where she wrote a column for a newspaper, tutored at an elementary school, gained a reputation as a public speaker and volunteered with numerous organizations. She was a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. and passed away at 100 years of age.
Dr. Robert Prentiss Daniel (1902-1968) spent twenty-five years at Virginia Union University. As a student he was valedictorian and earned a B.A. For twelve years after graduating, he taught mathematics and freshman English, became an instructor in education and Director of Education and Psychology. Concurrently, he earned a M.A. and Ph.D. from Teachers College, Columbia University. In 1936, a month before his thirty-fourth birthday, he was installed as the second African American President of Shaw University in North Carolina. In 1950, he left Shaw to become President of Virginia State College. He was a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc.
Manilla Corrine Daniel (1899-1930) studied dressmaking and attended Hartshorn College and Pratt Institute in New York. She passed away at age 31.
Dr. Walter Green Daniel (1905-1996) graduated magna cum laude from Virginia Union University in 1926 with a B.A. He continued his education obtaining the professional Bachelor of Education degree in 1927 and M.A. in Education from the University of Cincinnati in 1928. He started at Howard University as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Education in 1929. In 1935, he was promoted to Associate Professor and University Librarian. Teachers College, Columbia University, awarded him a Ph.D. in 1941 and he was promoted to Professor in 1946. After twenty-two years he resigned from Howard University to accept a position as a specialist in higher education for the U.S. Office of Education. He later served as Professor of Education and Psychology at Bowie State College (now University). He returned to Virginia Union as Director of the Division of Education and Psychology. In 1961, he was invited to return to Howard University to develop a M.A. in Teaching program. In 1963, he was appointed Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Negro Education. He retired from Howard University in 1970 after writing over one hundred books, pamphlets, articles, editorials and book reviews. He passed away in Detroit Michigan in 1996, he was 91 years of age.
Virginia State College vs. Howard - 1920’s
The first unit of the Old Gym was constructed during the 1920’s. The first stage was completed as a result of efforts of volunteers, alumni, students and faculty. They donated time, labor and $8,000. The building, completed in 1936, was located behind Jones Dining Hall on the site of the present Engineering Building. It was torn down and replaced by the current gymnasium.
Charles J. Daniel, Sr. served as Secretary of Virginia Normal and Collegiate Institute for twenty-eight years. In recognition of his service, the gymnasium was named in his honor.
1926. Vol. 5, No. 1. 88 pp The Ivy League, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.
Newby, James E. (2007). Walter Green Daniel: Advancing Knowledge through Benevolence. The Journal of Negro Education, Vol. 7 (No. 3)
Virginia State University Special Collections/University Archives Department, Library and Media Services
Wilson, F. (1996). Daniel Family. In Encyclopedia of African-American Education (pp. 131-134). Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press.