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Shelandra Y. Ford
Historical Markers of Shelby County

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Robert R. Church, Sr. / Robert R. Church, Jr.

This plaque is dedicated to father and son, leaders of their race whose accomplishments brought honorable recognition to the City of Memphis. Robert R. Church, Sr. 1839-1912 Pioneer businessman, first citizen to buy bond to restore city charter after yellow fever epidemics of 1878-1879 had reduced Memphis to a taxing district. Bought bond number one of first series for one-thousand dollars. Founded Solvent Savings Bank and Trust Co. in 1906. The first bank to be owned by members of his race in Memphis. Built and contributed to the city Church's Park and Auditorium on this site in 1899, the first recreational, cultural and civic center for his people in Memphis where President Theodore Roosevelt addressed 10,000 citizens November 19, 1902. The Scimitar, April 1899 stated: ". . .It may be stated of Robert Church that his word was as good as his bond, no appeal to him for the aid of any charity or public enterprise for the benefit of Memphis has ever been made in vain. He is for Memphis first, last and all the time." Robert R. Church, Jr. 1885-1952 Recognized throughout the nation as most influential leader of his race in Republican Party during his lifetime. Delegate from Memphis to eight successive Republican National Conventions. "His influence in the Republican Party is more extensive in the South than any man white or black," The Commercial Appeal, Oct. 6, 1928. "...Leading Negro politician of the country..." New York World, March 10, 1929. Founded Lincoln League on this site in 1916. The first organization in Memphis to conduct voter registration drives, to conduct voting schools and to pay poll taxes for voters. It was his conviction that the ballot was the medium through which black citizens could obtain civil rights and to this concept he was dedicated as long as he lived.