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The Templeton Family History - Woven With Words


Several people contributed to this article


John Newton Templeton was the fourth African American college graduate in the United States and the first African American graduate of Ohio University.  He was a slave owned by William Williamson, who believed in educating his slaves; he was freed by Williamson’s will in 1813 and graduated from OU in 1828.


In the early 1990s, Arthur R. Templeton, Jr., from Reading, a great-great-nephew of the former slave and college graduate, participated with some of his family members in a reunion with the Williamson family in 1999, arranged by OU historian Connie Perdreau.  Arthur Templeton, Jr., who currently resides in California, was the second African American postal carrier in Reading.  He is a past president of the Reading NAACP and began the first African American Boy Scout troop in Reading.


Arthur Templeton, Jr.’s grandfather, William Reynolds Templeton, was born in Philadelphia in 1842 and came to Reading in 1874 to become pastor of Washington Presbyterian Church.  His daughter, Mildred Templeton, played organ for the church for 57 years (Goda 2004-05, 16).  His son, Arthur Reeves Templeton, Sr., who owned and operated Berks Auto Ignition, is also a past president of the Reading NAACP.


Reba John Templeton, who married Theodore C. Templeton in 1939, was a graduate of West Virginia State College and University of Michigan.  She became director of the Interracial Center, 4th and Laurel Streets (also known as the 4th and Laurel Recreation Center), the only one of nine recreational centers in the city of Reading that allowed African Americans to attend (Freedman 1990).  In 1962, she founded a non-profit African American youth group called the Help One Another Club and later founded the Youth of Yesterday. Both organizations assist young people to further their education by buying their books.  Three of the first recipients were James G. McKee, a computer consultant who graduated from Baldwin Wallace College; Lynda Dusenbury Sumerset, an ultrasound technician who graduated from the X-Ray Technology program at Philadelphia General Hospital; and Marie Rhodes, a banker, who graduated from Philander Smith College (Amprey 1997).  At a banquet in 1997 honoring Reba Templeton’s work with African American youth, Celeste A. Crenshaw wrote and dedicated the following poem to Templeton:


For 35 years

You’ve made your stand

For youth, to help

To understand

To buy the books, that educate

To say we’re here to create,

A community empowered and strong,

Whose faith endures and vision’s long.

You’ve been a source

You’ve stayed the course

And never did you stray

Great homage than I offer

Dear Youth of Yesterday (Amprey 1997).


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