Educator, Religious Leader, Statesman
Jabez Lamar Monroe Curry was born in Lincoln County, Georgia, on June 5, 1825,
to William and Susan (Winn) Curry. The family moved to Talladega County, Alabama
in 1837, where his father was a planter. For his college education, Curry returned
to his birth state and graduated from the University of Georgia. He went on
to complete a law degree at Harvard University.
After returning to Talladega to practice law, he was elected to the Alabama legislature in 1847 and served several terms. During that time, he authored a bill for the geological survey of the state and promoted public education. In 1857, Curry was elected to the United States Congress and reelected in 1859. Along with other Southern congressmen, he resigned from Congress in 1861 due to the conflict between the states. Curry served in the Confederate Congress, 1861-1863, and in the Confederate army as lieutenant colonel of the Alabama 5th Regiment.
Following the Civil War, Curry was elected president of the Alabama Baptist State Convention in 1865. A month later, he became president of Howard College (now Samford University) serving until 1868. He went on to hold numerous high posts in the Southern Baptist Convention and became an ardent advocate of the separation of church and state. Curry moved to Richmond College as Professor of English and also lectured in philosophy and international law.
Because of his work in behalf of free schooling for every child, he was selected to supervise the George Peabody Fund for public education in the South and to serve as agent of the Slater Fund for Negro Schools. Booker T. Washington said of him, "There was no man in the country more deeply interested in the higher welfare of the Negro, than Dr. Curry." Through countless speeches and publications to the public and governmental sectors, he tirelessly promoted the cause of free public education for all. Having declined the post as head of the Bureau of Education in 1885, he was appointed ambassador to Spain.
On March 4, 1847, Curry married Ann Alexander Bowie. They had three children-Susan Lamar, Manly Bowie, and Jackson Thomas. Two years after the death of his wife, Ann, he married Mary W. Thomas of Virginia on June 25, 1867.
Dr. Curry died February 12, 1903. Later that year, acknowledging his long dedication to education, Curry was chosen as the first Alabamian to be recognized in the National Statuary Hall in the U.S. Capitol. His statue was completed and erected in 1906. The Curry School of Education at the University of Virginia is named in his honor.