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Chapel service to honor Tuskegee University’s first chaplain

July 07, 2017

Contact: Michael Tullier, APR
Office of Communications, Public Relations and Marketing

Picture of Chaplain John Whittaker in decorated picture frame

On Sunday, July 16, the family of Tuskegee University’s first chaplain, Rev. John W. Whittaker, will host a public chapel service honoring his memory and his 30 years of service to the university. The service, which will begin at 10 a.m. in the Tuskegee University Chapel, is part of the family’s family reunion taking place on campus July 14-16.

The service, which marks the 90th anniversary of Whittaker’s retirement from the university, will feature an adaption of one of his published sermons entitled “The Seen and Unseen World.” It will be presented by Whittaker’s great-grandson, Rev. Marshall Howell III of Midway, Georgia. Whittaker’s great-granddaughter, Margaret Ann Graves of McLean, Virginia, will offer a variety of musical selections appropriate to the gathering.

Whittaker was born in Atlanta in 1860 and earned degrees from Atlanta University and the Hartford Theological Seminary in 1884 and 1887, respectively. He ministered in Springfield, Massachusetts, and Nashville, Tennessee, before accepting an invitation from Booker T. Washington in 1888 to serve as the university’s first chaplain. He served in this capacity for three years before leaving for ministerial duties in New Orleans and Savannah, Georgia. He accepted Washington’s invitation in 1901 to return to campus, where he also served as chief financial officer, dean of the chapel and dean of the Bible Training Institute. He retired in 1927. After passing away in 1936, he was laid to rest in the Tuskegee University Campus Cemetery adjacent to the University Chapel. His wife, Anna, was also buried there after her death in 1948.

The chapel service is open to the public. Dr. Gregory Gray, current dean of the chapel, will preside over the service, which will include Scripture readings and musical performances by members and friends of the Whittaker family.

Dr. Joan Fobbs, another of Whittaker’s great-granddaughters, is coordinating the chapel service and family reunion. For more information about the event, contact Fobbs at 256.404.4029 or

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