TUSKEGEE, AL - Frank J. Toland Sr., longtime Tuskegee University faculty member and historian, died Sept. 12. He was a professor of African-American and Southern history in the University's history department since 1949. A memorial service was held Thursday, Sept. 16 in the Tuskegee University Chapel.
Toland, also a civil rights activist, was born on June 1, 1920, in Helena, S.C., to Fred Toland and Lily Mae Sligh. The period following the Great Depression put a large strain on Toland's parents, and they eventually went their separate ways.
After moving to Newberry, S.C., after the third grade, Toland attended Draden Street High School and graduated as class valedictorian in 1939. After finishing a 42-week military service beginning in 1942, Toland earned his B.A. degree in English, history and political science from South Carolina State University.
Soon after, Toland obtained a part-time English teaching position at Wilkinson High School in South Carolina. Toland was then accepted into the University of Pennsylvania's master's program as a history major.
During Toland's time there, he was the only black student in the entire program. While attending the University of Pennsylvania, Toland worked for six months at William Penn Business Institute teaching English and business math. After receiving his M.A. degree in history in 1948, Toland attended the University of Minnesota and Temple University for advanced studies.
In 1949, Toland left William Penn Business Institute and began working in the history department at the Tuskegee Institute (later Tuskegee University). In 1968, Toland became the chair of the Department of History, a position he held until 1984. It was at the Tuskegee Institute that he met his future wife, Maree N. Morse, who was a Tuskegee Institute graduate. The couple had three children.
Also in 1968, Toland was elected unanimously as a member of the City Council of Tuskegee. Toland went on to become the head of the membership committee, the chairman of the Political Education Committee, and one of the vice presidents of the Tuskegee Civic Association.
Later, Toland became involved in the NAACP and the Macon County Democratic Club. Driven by a passion to change the racial inequality that existed in Alabama, Toland used his membership on the various committees as a platform to voice his opinions on race relations, especially in regards to the Voters Rights Act.
Throughout his involvement with civil rights issues, Toland met numerous leading activists including Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Reverend Ralph Abernathy. He was instrumental in bringing Malcolm X to the Tuskegee Institute at the time to engage students in civil rights struggles.
Toland retired from Tuskegee University in May 2009, after 60 years of dedicated service. In March 2010, the Tuskegee University Board of Trustees approved then-President Benjamin F. Payton's recommendation to award Toland the rank of Professor Emeritus in the College of Liberal Arts and Education.
The family requests donations to be made to a scholarship fund in memory of Toland:
Professor Emeritus Frank J. Toland Sr.
Memorial Scholarship Fund
c/o Tuskegee-Macon County Branch of NAACP
PO Box 618
Tuskegee Institute, AL 36087
Source: Tuskegee University