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Dr. John M. Gandy – Gandy Hall

By Maurice B. Jones   

John M. Gandy (1870-1947) was born October 31, 1870 in Oktibbeha County, Mississippi, as John Mumphis Gandy, he disliked his middle name and changed it to Manuel. 

He was the fifth of thirteen children born to Horace and Mary (Goodwyn) Gandy who were both slaves until 1865. The family remained in Oktibbeha until they could no longer make a living in a state of economic oppression as tenant farmers. While John was in school at Jackson College, several black families including his parents moved to Sallisaw Oklahoma hoping to make a fresh start. 

John Gandy began his education in the poor Mississippi one-room school system. With the equivalent of a seventh grade education, Gandy taught school while pursuing his own education. At age fifteen he began teaching at a school in Stone Mountain, Mississippi after receiving a third grade teaching certificate. At sixteen he entered Jackson College as an eighth grade student. Two years later he completed their program and took a job teaching in Hanson in the Indian Territory (now Oklahoma) and later at a local brickyard to earn more money. Desiring more education he left the brickyard in 1892 and managed to make his way to Ohio where he was admitted to Oberlin Academy where he remained until 1894. After nearly two years he was forced to leave Oberlin due to lack of funds so he tried to enroll at Colgate University in Hamilton, NY, but was still short of funds. 

However, some of the students at Colgate collected money on his behalf and he managed to reach Nashville, Tennessee where he enrolled at Fisk University. As a student at Fisk, he taught during the summers in Hickman Lake County in Kentucky. He graduated from Fisk in 1898 with a B. A. degree. After graduating he re-enrolled as a non-resident student and in 1901 graduated with a M.A. degree. He studied at Columbia University in New York in the summers of 1903 and 1911, and he took nonresident graduate courses earning a Ph.D. at Illinois Wesleyan University in Bloomington, Illinois. Conferred upon him were the honorary degrees of Doctor of Philosophy from Morgan State College in 1920 and Doctor of Laws from Howard University in 1937. In the summer of 1934 at age 64, Gandy studied at Cornell University. 

In 1898 he was appointed professor of Greek and Latin at Virginia Normal and Collegiate Institute, (now Virginia State University) at a salary of $900 per year. After arriving at the college, he met and married Carrie Senora Brown in 1901, they had four children: Theodore, Horace, Marian and John, Jr. All of their surviving children were well educated: Theodore received a M.D. degree; Marian, two M.A. degrees; and John Jr., a Ph.D. degree. When the Greek and Latin program was terminated in 1902 by the Commonwealth of Virginia, he continued as professor of education. On January 29, 1914, the executive committee of the Board of Visitors of the Virginia Normal and Industrial Institute appointed Gandy acting president because of the continuing illness of President James Hugo Johnston (Johnston Memorial Library). Following the death of President Johnston that same year, Gandy was appointed the third president of the college at a salary of $1000 per year. 

As president he oversaw the schools development which included becoming the "Land Grant College" for blacks in Virginia in 1920. From 1914 to 1929, faculty grew from 29 to 71 and the campus expanded from 26 acres to 300 acres. The name changed to Virginia State College for Negroes in 1930 and the establishment of the graduate school in 1937. 

While president of the College, he also served as: President of the Association of Negro Land Grant College, President of the Virginia State Teachers Association, and President of the National Association of Teachers in Colored Schools. He was also a member of several boards and a member of the Board of Trustees of Virginia Union University in Richmond, Virginia. 

He served as President of Virginia State College for 28 years until he retired in 1943. Upon retirement, he began writing his memoirs and a history of the college. He lived on campus until his death on October 5, 1947, he was 76 years old. 

Funeral services were held in the auditorium of Virginia Hall on October 8, 1947. Musical selections were sung by the acapella choir under the direction of J. Harold Montague (Lindsey-Montague Hall). Pallbearers included Dr. John M. Hunter, Dr. Reuben McDaniel (Hunter-McDaniel Hall), Dr. John L. Lockett (Lockett Hall), and George W. Owens (Owens Hall). 

He was friends with Booker T. Washington, Robert R. Moton, Mary McLeod Bethune, Mary Church Terrell, E.R. Embree of the Rosenwald Fund, Jackson Davis of the General Education Board, W.E.B. DuBois and Maggie L. Walker. 

Dr. Gandy is buried at Blandford Cemetery in Petersburg. Gandy Hall on the campus of Virginia State University is named in his honor. 

The Wyatt-Gandy Wedding 

Picture at the President’s Residence (now Storum Hall) 

Marion Gandy Wyatt was born in 1906 on the campus of Virginia Normal and Industrial Institute in Ettrick, Va. She was one of four children born to John and Carrie Gandy. Marion Gandy completed her secondary education in the schools located on campus and then matriculated at Fisk University before becoming Director of Home Economics at Bennett College in Greensboro, NC. 


John M. Gandy Papers. 1914-1947. Special Collections & Archives, Virginia State University 

Interview: The Lived Consequences of Colorblindness: Interview With Barbara Gandy Hale (Granddaughter of John Gandy) Educational Studies Vol. 38, Iss. 2, 2005 

Pawley, Thomas. John M. Gandy: African American scholar, educator, and college president 

(1963, Oct. 10). Jet Magazine 

(1947, Oct. 18). Richmond Afro American Newspaper