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The Life of Romeo B. Garrett

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Romanyn Benjamin Garrett (later changed to Romeo) was born in 1910, in the small town of Natchez, Mississippi. He was raised by his grandfather, T. B Duncan. Garrett graduated high school in 1928 and would graduate from Straight University in 1932. Straight University was a Historically Black College in New Orleans. In 1934 Straight University merged with New Orleans University to form Dillard University.

After graduating from Straight University with a degree in sociology, he began work as “A Supervisor of Adult Education for Negros in New Orleans”. During this time, he met Dr. W.E.B. Dubois, acclaimed sociologist and author of The Souls of Black Folk, at Atlanta University. W.E.B. Dubois instilled the importance of scholarship and education in Romeo B. Garrett.

On September 28, 1942,  Romeo B. Garrett enlisted in the United States Army to fight in World War II, where he would serve for three years. After his return, on November 25, 1947, Dr. Garrett married Naomi Duncan. Together they moved to the city of Peoria, to be closer to Naomi’s sister, Dr. Maude Sanders. 

In Peoria, Garrett furthered his education by receiving his Master's Degree from Bradley University. During this time, African-Americans were allowed to attend Bradley University but not allowed to live on campus. Garrett made history as the first Black person to receive their Master’s degree from Bradley University, and he would keep making history as the first Black professor at Bradley University. During the summers, Garrett began work on his doctorate at New York University. He finished his doctorate in six years and became Dr. Romeo B. Garrett.

Garrett’s career at Bradley spanned 29 years. Although he was a professor in Sociology he was able to mix African American studies as well as religion into his teachings. His classes were very popular amongst Bradley Students. He published three books: "The Negro in Peoria", "Famous Facts About Negroes", and "The Presidents and the Negro".  In 1972, Garrett decided to retire from Bradley University.

After his retirement, Garrett was able to focus on his work in the Peoria community. He was a member of the Peoria Chapter NAACP, as well the Urban League. He was the associate pastor of Zion Baptist Church. Throughout his life, he received countless awards, including the American Campaign Medal, the Army Good Conduct Medal, and a WWII Victory Medal.

Garrett passed away at Rosewood Care Center in East Peoria, Illinois on March 23, 2000.