Dennis Henry Anderson, Founder of West Kentucky Technical College
Dennis Henry Anderson was born in West Tennessee, near Jackson, in 1866. He graduated from Lane College, Jackson, Tennessee, in 1893 and became a Methodist minister and teacher. He married Artelia Harris, a native of Virginia, on July 14, 1897 while they were teachers in the Fulton, Kentucky public schools. Anderson believed that education and job training were vital for change for African Americans.
He opened schools in Fulton and Graves counties, raising the funds for the building of the first high school in Fulton County in 1905. On December 9, 1909, the 43 year old Anderson began work on the foundation of the first building of what would be called the West Kentucky Industrial College (a predecessor of today’s West Kentucky Community & Technical College). He and his wife worked on the foundation in the evening by candlelight, constructing the school “out of logs and faith.” He went door-to-door, requesting funds for the school. The cornerstones were laid in 1911, and Anderson began a 7 year struggle to get state support for his college.
In 1918, a bill creating the state supported West Kentucky Industrial College was signed by Governor A. O. Stanley “for the mental, moral and physical development of the colored people after the manner of the Booker Washington School of Alabama” by operating a “training school for colored teachers, boys and girls”. The school grew to be, at one time, the second largest black junior college in the United States. In 1938, the teacher-training program at the college was transferred to Frankfort, and the college closed and reopened as West Kentucky Vocational School.
Anderson was awarded an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from Lane College in 1934. He died at the age of 86 in 1952. To read more about Dr. Anderson, see The Fascinating Story of Black Kentuckians, by A. A. Dunnigan; Fifty Years of Segregation: Black Higher Education in Kentucky, 1904-1954 by J. A. Hardin, and My West Kentucky, A History of West Kentucky Technical College 1909-1999 by J. M. Blythe.
(This posting created using the following resources: Paducahans, Famous and Not So Famous, by Allan Rhodes, Sr. and John E. L. Robertson, Sr.; the Internet website of the University of Kentucky Libraries, Notable Kentucky African Americans Database at www.uky.edu/Libraries/NKAA and the Internet website of West Kentucky Community and Technical College at www.legacy.westkentucky.kctcs.edu/aboutus from which the image of Dr. Anderson used above was obtained.)