Byrd Prillerman

Charleston Daily Mail
April 26, 1929

Byrd Prillerman, Educator, Is Dead

Founder of West Virginia State College Succumbs at Hospital Here

Dr. Byrd Prillerman, 69, one of West Virginia's most prominent Negro educators, and former president of West Virginia Collegiate institute, now West Virginia State college, died shortly after 11 o'clock Thursday night at the St. Francis hospital following an operation.

Dr. Prillerman was one of the most widely known and best educated Negro teachers in the state. He received a bachelor of science degree from Knoxville college in 1889; master of arts degree at Westminster, New Wilmington, Pa., in 1894, and a degree in literature from Selma university in 1916.

He first started teaching in Poca district, this county, on November 10, 1879. He succeeded in obtaining a first grade teachers' certificate. To improve his literary qualifications, he entered Knoxville college September 3, 1883, from which place he was later graduated.

Returning to Charleston, he was employed as a teacher in the public schools here and was made assistant principal. Realizing that there was need for higher education for Negroes in West Virginia, he took up the matter with Governor A. B. Fleming in 1890 and obtained the establishment of the West Virginia Colored Institute in 1891. Dr. Prillerman was employed as first assistant to the principal in 1892. The West Virginia Collegiate Institute, which Mr. Prillerman headed for 10 years as president, was founded by a federal statute of 1862, which required that equal educational facilities for Negro children. It did not become established as a State school for Negroes until March 17, 1891, in pursuance of an act passed by the legislature of 1890 providing separate schools for Negroes.

Elected School Head

J. Edwin Campbell, of Ohio, was the first principal of the institute in 1891, and Prillerman was made assistant principal. He served in this capacity until 1909 when he was chosen a president. On August 31, 1919, Prillerman was made assistant principal. He served in this capacity until 1909 when he was chosen a president. On August 31, 1919, Prillerman voluntarily retired as president of the school, on account of his age and he became president emeritus. He was succeeded by John W. Davis, of Washington, who still holds the position as president.

Immediately after his retirement as active had of the school, Prillerman became interested in Sunday School work among the Negroes and was engaged by the International Council of Religious Education to work in West Virginia. He worked through the West Virginia Council of Religious Education, with headquarters at Charleston. In this capacity he traveled about the state organizing and standardizing Sunday schools for the children of his race. He was busy up to the time he was stricken with illness about a week ago.

The West Virginia Teachers association for Negro teachers was organized largely through his efforts in 1896. He served as president of this association for nine years. Previous to this, Dr. Prillerman became an active member of the National Education association nad [sic] was a member in that organization at the time of his death.

In 1915, Dr. Prillerman succeeded in having the name of West Virginia Colored Institute changed to West Virginia Collegiate Institute. In May, 1919, he graduated the first Negro students to receive a degree in West Virginia.

Entertained Educators

Under his administration, he brought to the college some of the most distinguished educators in the nation. They included J. W. E. Bowen, D. D., Ph. D., Atlanta, Ga.; Rev. M. W. Clair, Washington, D. C.; Professor W. E. B. Dubois, Ph. D., editor of "Crisis", New York; Miss Nannie H. Burroughs, A. M., president of the national training school, Washington; Prof. Kelley Miller, A. M., dean of Howard university, Washington; Prof. George D. Hayes, Ph. D., Fish university; Joe Mitchell Chapple, editor of National magazine; P. P. Claxton, former United States commissioner of education, and the late Dr. Booker T. Washington.

In 1893, Dr. Prillerman married Miss Mattie E. Brown, a native of this state and a graduate of Wayland seminary. He is survived by two sons and two daughters, Delbert McCullough, the oldest son; graduated from Michigan Agricultural college in 1917, and served in France during the war. He is now a professor in chemistry at the West Virginia state college. The younger son, Henry Laurence, graduated from the institute in 1917, later served in the army, and is now teaching in this state. Ednora Hae [sic], the oldest daughter, graduated from the academic course of the institute in 1919. The other daughter is Miss Myrtle Prillerman, of Institute.

Dr. Prillerman, who owned valuable real estate, used as one of his favorite themes: "A well painted two-story house owned by a Negro is sharper than a two-edged sword."

Dr. Prillerman's body is at the Harden and Harden mortuary. Funeral arrangements have not been completed.

African Americans

West Virginia Archives and History