“Dear Taylor: This letter may be somewhat of a surprise to you, but I hope you can see your way clear to accede to our request. After deliberating for a good deal of time over the matter, we have determined to put some one of our graduates in the field in the North to collect money for the school; interest and instruct the people about our work, and we have settled on the conclusion that we can get no better person to represent us than yourself.” -Booker T. Washington, June 9th 1893
“Dear Friend: your letter of recent date was the greatest surprise imaginable. I have thoroughly considered the offer made to me and have decided to off-set my ideas of going to school next term, so as to comply with your request. As you know Alma-Mater means nourishing Mother. From an intellectual stand-point I consider Tuskegee my mother-so I am perfectly willing to act in the capacity of a child.” -R.W.Taylor June 14th 1893
Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson
Aside from her students, there is no more important constituent group for Mother Tuskegee than her students (alumni) who have graduated from Tuskegee Institute (University). And this correspondence between Booker T. Washington and Robert Wesley Taylor illustrates the strong ties and affinity within the Tuskegee University Family. Note, the Founding Principal “deliberated for a good deal of time” when considering who among “the Sons and Daughters of Booker and Mother Tuskegee” would best represent the institution. Among the many shining arrows in their quiver, Robert Wesley Taylor was preeminent among the family’s best and brightest. Although familial relations dictate equal filial love among siblings, when parents have a need it is not unusual for the strongest, most diligent, most generous and most capable son or daughter to respond. This describes the character of Mr. Taylor. Hearkening to the true spirit of Alma Mater, he regarded Tuskegee as his “intellectual nourishing mother.” For Mother Tuskegee had nourished his nascent personal, intellectual, social and spiritual appetite with the milk of George Washington Carver and Robert R. Taylor among countless numbers of eminent professors, scholars and staff members who are still nourishing students today. Mr. Taylor did not stop at child-like professions of love for his mother. He exhibited the attitude of a full-grown son who responded with a ready reply when he was called. And “while children ought not to lay up for the parents, but the parents for the children,” a child does well when he or she has left home to help restore the nourishing ability of his or her mother so that mother is able to continue nurturing many, many more sons and daughters for years to come. And in this the centennial year since the passing of Booker T. Washington (1915-2015), there is no greater time than the present for the sons and daughters (and supporters) of Mother Tuskegee to support both the tradition and trajectory of Tuskegee University.
Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University