Bridgeforth, George Ruffum ('1901)

Football team, 1901
Football team, 1901 (Bridgeforth in center rear)
When George Ruffum Bridgeforth arrived in Amherst in the fall of 1897, he became probably the first African American student to be admitted to the Massachusetts Agricultural College. Born in Westmoreland, Ala., on Oct. 5, 1873, Bridgeforth was nearly 24 when he entered as a freshman, and college seems to have been no easy choice. After his first term at school, on January 4, 1898, the Board of Trustees reported:

"Pres. Goodell presented a petition from Dickson [i.e. Dickran] B. Tasjian, an Armenian, and Geo. R. Bridgeforth, a colored man from Alabama, that their tuition fees be remitted because of inability to pay them."

The petition was granted.

On campus, Bridgeforth took part in a full slate of student activities and appears to have been popular with his classmates. Chosen as Sergeant at Arms for the Sophomore class, he was part of the rope pull team, the College Shakespearean Club, and was Vice President of the YMCA. In 1900, he lived with three white students in a lodging house at 101 Pleasant St., kept by Louisa S. Baker. In that year he was awarded the second Prize in the Flint Oratorical competition. The Index reported on the triumph of “the orator of the South,” noting that the “crowning success in the oratorical line was his defense against the slanderous accusation of being false to his class. This great orator not only defended his honor on the chapel stage and gained the unanimous decision of the judges, but at the same time accomplished the difficult feat of breaking up a Y.M.C.A. meeting.”

After graduation, Bridgeforth began a career as a teacher at historically Black colleges. Joining the Agricultural Department at Tuskegee in 1902, he was appointed Director of the Department in 1904, remaining there for more than a decade. In 1918, he appears as a teacher at the Industrial and Educational Institute in Topeka, Kansas, although he appears to have returned to Alabama in the early 1920s, where he worked as in dairy and as a real estate man in the small town of Athens. He and wife Dotie, raised a son and three daughters. Bridgeforth appears to have died in Limestone Co., Ala., on Jan. 30, 1955.


b/bridgeforth_george_ruffum.txt · Last modified: 2013/12/18 13:25 (external edit)
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