The Founding Vision
The story of Brewton-Parker College begins 1899. Over twenty churches from the surrounding counties came together with the same desire upon their hearts: to better tend to the Spiritual needs and growth of the surrounding areas. For this reason, these church leaders decided that the best way to accomplish the goal that GOD had laid upon their heart was to establish a school. This school would provide education, Spiritual guidance, and would strive to prepare all those who walk through its doors for the world in which they are about to enter. These accomplishments would serve as a means by which Spiritual Revival would be able to take place in the younger and older members of the surrounding area. This dream finally came to fruition in the year 1904, through the work of John C. Brewton, as well as Charles B. Parker.
The Legacy of Warren C. Crawley, Sr.
A Businessman. A Visionary. An Ex-Slave
Born into slavery in Virginia in 1842, Warren C. Crawley was stolen from his parents on the streets of Virginia and was brought to Georgia as a slave. Later as a free man he migrated to Montgomery County, Georgia and was eventually successful as a merchant and landowner. When Warren Crawley heard that Rev. John Brewton and Mr. Charles Parker were trying to start a school, but did not have enough property, he donated 5 acres of his own land to comprise one-third of the original tract needed for Union Baptist Institute’s inaugural campus.
He did this knowing – in the pre-civil-rights south – that his own children would never be allowed to attend.
Mr. Warren C. Crawley, Sr. left a legacy for not only Brewton-Parker College but for the entire Montgomery County area. Born around 1842 in Richmond, Virginia, Crawley was reportedly stolen from his family and brought to Montgomery County as a slave. In 1867, Crawley married Josephine, daughter of Samuel and Sally McRae Hill. Crawley and his wife had five children together.
In April of 1878, Crawley purchased land in Montgomery County. In 1904, an effort was made by local churches to start the Union Baptist Institute. The Mount Vernon/Ailey location was chosen but the site only had ten of the needed fifteen acres. Crawley stepped forward to donate the other needed five acres. His generosity allowed the establishment of the school to go forward.
Crawley’s donation was remarkable in an era of economic difficulty, but it is even more impressive when considering he knew that the practice of strict segregation would not allow his children or grandchildren to attend the school. In 1905, the Georgia Baptist Convention recognized Crawley for his generosity that crossed all boundaries of race. His was truly a Christ-like act of reconciliation that was remarkable for any time but especially in that day.
Crawley also donated additional land in Mount Vernon for the construction of the Warrens Chapel Methodist Church. The church later merged with Nepsey Methodist Church to become Nepsey-Warren United Methodist Church.
Crawley passed away on October 12, 1925. He was so well-respected by the community that The Montgomery Monitor once described Crawley as one “who had won for himself the favor of both races. . . . He was looked upon by those who knew him as a man of honor and integrity, faithful in the performance of whatever tasks fell to his lot, a good citizen, a Christian man, in whom a great number had unlimited confidence.”
Today, over a century later, Brewton-Parker College is seeking to honor Crawley’s legacy by the naming of a section of dorms on Brewton-Parker’s main campus. As part of the project, a new memorial will also be erected in the front area of the campus that will commemorate his life and generous act that allowed the establishment of the college. In the Warren C. Crawley Commons, students of different races and backgrounds will live amongst one another, a vision of diversity and unity that both King and Crawley could only dream about.