Every year, it’s my goal to bring awareness to influential Black Americans from Central Illinois who have greatly impacted the world we live in.
For the second installment of my #BlackHistoryMonth spotlight, I am highlighting Dr. Romeo B. Garrett, the first African American to receive a Master’s degree at Bradley University. Dr. Garrett was also the first Black professor at Bradley, hired in 1947 to teach sociology.
Born in 1910 in Mississippi, Garrett moved to Peoria in the 1940s after serving in the Army in World War II. His sister-in-law, Dr. Maude Sanders, lived in Peoria at the time and was Peoria’s first black female doctor.
Dr. Garrett’s contributions to the Peoria community are vast, and he wrote several books documenting the achievements of black residents in the Peoria area. At Bradley, he promoted the inclusion of all people and encouraged students to learn about black culture.
Dr. Garrett served as an associate pastor at Zion Baptist Church for close to 40 years. He was also the vice president of the NAACP Chapter in Peoria.
Garrett’s legacy lives on today, as the city of Peoria renamed the street he lived on as ‘West Romeo B. Garrett Avenue.” At Bradley University, the Garrett Scholarship Program was established in 1964 and offers five full-time scholarships. The Romeo B. Garrett Cultural Center was dedicated in 1980 on campus, and it houses Bradley’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion.
For more information on Dr. Romeo B. Garrett, please follow these links: