Portraits of Peoria: Dr. Romeo B. Garrett

by Molly Deadmond

In a continuation of the “Portraits of Peoria”
series, this month we look at Dr. Romeo B. Garrett.

Dr. Romeo B. Garrett was an author, military
veteran, and the first African American
professor at Bradley University. Born in 1910 in
Natchez, Mississippi, Garrett graduated from
Straight University (now Dillard University)
in New Orleans in 1932. He went on to study at
Bradley University, where he was the first of
three people to receive a degree in the master’s
program in 1947. He would go on to receive his
Doctorate in 1963 from New York University.

As a full-time sociology professor
at Bradley, Dr. Garrett worked to increase
student awareness of other cultures, especially
encouraging the study of Black history. This
enthusiasm stemmed from his younger years
where he recognized the lack of information about Black individuals in both historical
texts and the public eye. Garrett collected
and documented the accomplishments of
Black individuals in a variety of fields. This
collection started with a photograph of
American abolitionist Frederick Douglass—
whom Garrett’s grandfather had met in 1863.
Over six decades, Garrett amassed a collection
consisting of letters, photographs, books,
and artifacts that painted a more inclusive
picture of Black contributions. A sample of
his collection has been shown annually at
the Peoria Public Library, entitled “The Black
Experience in America.” Dr. Garrett retired
from teaching at Bradley in 1976, receiving the
status of Professor Emeritus.

Outside of academics, Garrett was a
member of the local chapter of the NAACP
and Urban League, as well as associate
minister of the Zion Baptist Church for nearly
40 years. Today, Garrett’s name lives on in
a scholarship bearing his name at our own
Bradley University and has allowed more than
400 students to attend since its inception in 1964. Bradley University also celebrates Garrett
Week every year during the third week of
April. During this event, Dr. Garrett’s legacy is
celebrated, and minority students are offered
additional networking resources. The Office of
Diversity and Inclusion at Bradley is located
in the Romeo B. Garrett Cultural Center, along
with space for student events, study areas, and
a conference room.

About Molly Deadmond

Molly Deadmond is a recent graduate of Eureka College with a Bachelor’s Degree in Communications. Born and raised in Peoria, IL, Deadmond has a deep love for her community, and hopes to contribute to making her hometown a better place for all. Deadmond is a lover of all things creative, with a special love for creative writing. She believes that art is a form of therapy and escape that anyone can enjoy, regardless of talent or skill level. She enjoys video games, nature, and spending time with the ones she loves.

Art by Aryanne Westfall

Ary Westfall is a junior Interactive Media major and Theatre Arts minor attending Bradley University. She is the social media manager for DAT, creates webcomics in her free time, and enjoys all forms of sequential art. Ary hopes to break into the comic world or find work in pre-production art for television.