Why is there a seminary named Hood?

Published 12:00 am Saturday, October 8, 2011

By Reginald W. Brown
For the Salisbury Post
Many people regard a theological seminary as a place to talk about God, study the Bible and train for the ministry. Some see it as a seedbed nurturing the divine call of Godís servants. Although a man-made structure can represent an icon of Christian character, organized discussions about God can take place anywhere.
There is a school on a hill overlooking a section of Interstate 85 in Salisbury, with an extension in Greenville, Ala. These are the third and fourth venues in its history where preachers of the Gospel struggle to perfect their call. Its name is Hood Theological Seminary.
The seminary was created from the remnants of a theological department at Livingstone College and named in honor of Senior Bishop James Walker Hood in 1904. Its purpose was to train ministers and missionaries for itinerate service in the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church. Today, Hood is an independent graduate institution in the A.M.E. Zion tradition struggling to perfect its mission preparing siblings of the human race for transformational leadership in the Christian ministry.
The first building was dedicated in 1911 and currently houses offices of the Livingstone College president. Hoodís second home, dedicated in June 1965 as the William Jacob Walls Center, is todayís college student life center. After the seminaryís corporate separation from Livingstone in 2000, it relocated to the site of a former motel at 1810 Lutheran Drive in the fall of 2005.
There are several reasons Bishop Hoodís name is the moniker of a theological school and a womenís dormitory at Fayetteville State University. Some reasons stem from his participation in a chain of events by which the seminary, todayís North Carolina state government and public education system came into being. Theological reasons originated from his view of Revelation 4: 6-14 that defines genuine Christians, especially the ministry, in terms of courage, patience, intelligence and divine action. He saw Godís church resting upon the apostles of the Lamb instead of Peter and that the body of Christian principles and beliefs taught by the 12 apostles forms the basis upon which the doctrinal church of God rests.
According to Hood,
It is not built upon philosophy, nor human reason, nor human tradition, but upon the doctrines of revealed truth, proclaimed by the apostles of divine authority. Not by any one of them alone, but by the whole number twelve, which is the number signifying perfection. The Apostle Paul tells us that Jesus Christ himself is the chief corner stone; and the same idea is signified here in that they are called the apostles of the Lamb.
His core doctrinal convictions stressed works in progress rather than finished products and governance of Christian life instead of achievement (Phil. 3: 12-16). Like John Wesley, Hood saw Christian perfection as purity of intention, dedicating all life to God and the mind which was in Christ, enabling us to walk as Christ walked.
He believed that:
Patient resignation to the will of God, under every dispensation of His providence, is in our judgment, the capstone of Christian perfection. The Captain of our salvation was made perfect by suffering; and we, to be confronted to him must patiently endure our sufferings (2 Tim 3:12)
Bishop Hoodís organizing and political activities began in 1864 at New Bern and Beaufort, N.C., where he brought two churches into the A.M.E. Zion denomination. These were two of more than 350 churches throughout coastal North Carolina, southern Virginia and northern South Carolina he helped to establish along with the North Carolina Conference of the Zion Church. He was a founder of Zion Wesley Institute in 1879, later rechartered as Zion Wesley College in 1885 and renamed Livingstone College in 1887. He discovered Joseph Charles Price, Livingstoneís first president, and was a founder of the Star of Zion, the church newspaper. Hood helped establish 18 Prince Hall lodges, served as Grand Master of Masons of North Carolina, Grand Patron of the Order of Eastern Star and Chaplain of the Grand Lodge of World of Good Templars.
Hood presided over the first statewide political convention of African Americans in Raleigh, to secure civil and political rights in September 1865. In 1868 he participated in creating the N.C. Constitution, which established homesteads, womenís rights and public school provisions for all citizens. County and township government and elections by popular vote of all state executive officers, judges, county officials and legislators became law with the Constitutionís passage. Property qualifications for voting and office holding were abolished.
Hood was assistant superintendent of public instruction for North Carolina, with special duties for African-American children. While in that position, he advocated separate schools for blacks and whites after observing most white teachers regarded black children as inferior. He saw this as justification for African Americans to educate their own while opposing writing the word segregation into the state Constitution.
When the conservatives regained control of the state legislature, his superintendentís position was eliminated. He briefly served as an unpaid magistrate and deputy collector of customs and from 1868 to 1871, as assistant superintendent of the Freedmanís Bureau in North Carolina until its termination by President Ulysses S. Grant.
James Walker Hood was born on a rented farm in Kennett Township, Chester County, Penn., on May 30, 1831. His birth was three months before Nat Turnerís southern Virginia rebellion and during a second American religious revival fueled by the Great Awakening. He and five brothers and six sisters were the children of Levi and Harriet Walker Hood, who lived near the PennsylvaniańDelaware state line. Their home was a station on the Underground Railroad, the secret network for people fleeing southern slavery into the northern states and Canada. The family and other free blacks in the area faced constant threats of being kidnapped and enslaved. His early life gave birth to his Christian character and the desire for racial justice and clerical gender equality that he championed as a politician, minister and itinerate bishop.
His father Levi was a shoemaker and the minister of the Union Church of Africans in Wilmington, Del., nine miles from the family home. He arranged for his children to work for food, clothing and six weeks of education per year until their 16th birthday. After Hood had fulfilled his fatherís commitments, he began working in Philadelphia and New York, attending school in Pennsylvania and Delaware, and teaching himself general and theological studies, while being tutored in Greek.
Hood learned grammar and received encouragement to become a public speaker from his mother. Hostile Pennsylvania racial attitudes, Delawareís proximity as a slave state, and Quaker theology and practice influenced his character. He learned to temper his demeanor and serve as a thoughtful and insightful minister, evangelist, missionary, politician and educator.
He accepted his salvation through the enlightenment and encouragement of his mother and sister Charlotte without the drama most 19th century evangelicals placed on religious conversions. His spiritual and Christian intelligence, instead of emotional zeal, awakened him to his salvation and call to the ministry. He started preaching and in 1852 married Hannah L. Ralph, who died three years later. Hood received his preaching license in a Union Church of Africans in New York city in 1856 and moved to Connecticut in 1857.
Since there was no Union Church of Africans in Connecticut, Hood acquired a preaching license from the A. M. E. Zion Church and an appointment in New Haven, Conn. A headwaiterís job supplemented his income for himself and his new wife, Sophia J. Nugent, as he converted hotel coworkers and brought them into the A.M.E. Zion denomination. He was ordained deacon in September 1860, and later traveled to Nova Scotia, Canada, where he gathered a small congregation. In 1862, he was ordained elder at Hartford, Conn. After six months of service in Bridgeport, Conn., Hood was assigned as a missionary to the newly freed people of the South. He arrived in New Bern in 1864 and preached to the federal African American troops as Union and Confederate forces clashed outside the town.
He pastored in New Bern, Fayetteville and Charlotte before becoming an A.M.E. Zion bishop in 1872. His second wife ó who bore him seven children, four of whom survived ó died in 1875. He married Keziah P. McCoy in 1877, a widow from Wilmington, who bore him two children.
Temperance and African American civil rights in public transportation yield testimony to Hoodís courage. He was convinced that alcohol and gambling were worst slave drivers than former slave owners, and when the ex-slave was free from the bondage of these vices, he was uplifting himself and his race. Hood influenced the re chartering of Zion Wesley Institute as a college in 1885. Part of the charterís preamble states:
That it shall not be lawful for any person or persons to set up or continue any gaming table, or any device whatever for playing at any game of chance or hazard, by whatever name called, or to receive or use any license to retail spirituous liquors Ö
Hood predated the 1960s civil rights activists by more than a century. From 1848 to 1863, conductors of the Pennsylvania Railroad tried on several occasions to remove him from first-class passenger cars. In 1857 he was removed from New York city streetcars five times in one night. In 1868 Hood acquired cabin passage on the Cape Fear River steamers. The agents informed him that the steamer company would yield to his demands because Cape Fear was under military authority and advised the bishop not to take advantage of this, as it would be worse for him when the military is withdrawn. He responded by saying that he would enjoy it while he could, and trust the Lord for the balance.
On Oct. 30, 1918, James Walker Hood died at home in Fayetteville at the age of 87, having served as an itinerant minister for about 60 years and as bishop for 44 years. His body rests in a family plot in Cross Creek Cemetery near historic Evans Metropolitan A. M. E. Zion Church. The spirit of his Christian character lives on a hill in view of one of manís busy byways and within those perfecting their service to God as apostles of the Lamb.
So, whatís in a name? The answer is the Christian character that defines an individual and Hood Theological Seminary.