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Verna Bidwell first met Louis Gregory in 1942, then again in 1943, and became a member of the Baha’i Faith as a result of his second visit. The first visit possibly took place at “my” previous residence on Cliff (or Clifton) Road, also in Birmingham. She thinks he also had visited Miles Collage.
I heard there was a Baha’i named Verna Inglis Bidwell (neé ‘Lence’) who was one of the few people still living who had met Louis Gregory, a well known and respected Baha’i travel teacher. On 5 Aug 1951, Shoghi Effendi, the Guardian and spiritual leader of the Baha’i Faith appointed Mr. Gregory, posthumously, to the rank of ‘Hand of the Cause of God’.
I made arrangements to travel to Birmingham, Alabama to visit a Baha’i family. It was from them that I learned about Verna Bidwell. I requested the assistance of Dianne, a local Auxiliary Board Member, to arrange for me to interview Mrs. Bidwell. She made contact with her via telephone and received permission for me to visit her at home. I asked Dianne to accompany me because as a Birmingham native she is very familiar with the area.
Verna Lence was born in Valparaiso, Indiana (near Chesterton) on March 12 1906. Twice married, full name: Verna Lence Inglis Bidwell. The interview took place at her home, 1812 Wellington, Road, Birmingham, Alabama 35209.
During the interview Verna Bidwell mentioned that she first met Louis Gregory in 1942, and again in 1943, and became Baha’i as a result of his second visit. She recalls that his first visit mostly likely took place at her previous residence on Cliff (Clifton?) Road, also in Birmingham. She also said that at some point he may have visited Miles Collage, but she was not certain.
As described by Mrs. Bidwell, she remembers Mr. Gregory was being mild mannered, serene, but very dynamic. She recalls that he was very much aware that in order to communicate with people in the south that he must base his Baha’i talks on the Bible.
It became increasingly evident during the interview that it was difficult for her to recall much detail, due in part to passage of time and her advance age. So, that which is recorded is the extent of our conversation regarding her recollections of Louis Gregory and his Baha’i travel teaching efforts in the southern states.
Mrs. Bidwell has a photograph of Mr. Gregory that was taken at the Baha’i Temple, Wilmette, Illinois, dated June 1, 1944. She agreed to let me make a copy and then return the original to her. [Note: The original was returned as promised].
The first Baha’i Local Spiritual Assembly was formed in Birmingham at Ridvan 1943. Membership at time of formation included: Robert Dunn (deceased), Rose Brown (currently resides in Seattle, Washington), Verna Inglis (later Bidwell) and her husband, also a Dr. Brown, and a Mr. Johnson.
Mrs. Bidwell also said that she was in the company of Mr. Gregory on three separate occasions, but did NOT see him in Birmingham after 1945. One of the three times was “at a convention” (National Baha’i Convention).
Sometime around 1940-42, Grace Ober, Harlan Ober’s wife, gave a talk in Birmingham.
Mrs. Bidwell has in her possession a photo album that includes photographs of David Villasenor doing an Indian style ‘sand painting’ at the ‘Indian Village’ in Valparaiso, Indiana, dated Sep 26-27, 1970. There’s also an earlier photo of him taken in March 1952.
Other photographs in her Album include:
~ Hands of the Cause of God, Mr. Samandarí, and Mr. Furitan (possibly taken in London, and at the same event)
~ Stanley James, 1942
~ Margaret Ruhe, Gertrude Gurney (?), and Verna Inglis. Photo taken in Birmingham, the backyard of Verna Inglis’s home on Cliff Road.
~ Hand of the Cause of God, Paul Haney, Aug 1956
~ Peggy True, 1943 (no relation to Edna True)
~ Hand of the Cause of God, Leroy Ioas (probably in the 1940s)
~ Hand of the Cause of God, Bora Kavelin, May 1952
~ Hand of the Cause of God, Alvin Blum (Also Knight of Baha’u’llah), photo taken in Fiji
A great amount of research is already completed on the life of Louis Gregory. There are written works about his tireless effort, as a teacher of the Baha’i Faith, especially in many southern states, and much is included in “To Move the World”, a book about the life Louis Gregory.
However, the extend of current research on the life of Louis Gregory does little to capture and portray the spiritual nature of his being that was the driving force of his creativity, moral courage, and awesome dedication to teach the Cause of Baha’u’llah. Much more must be done that not only details historical fact but also strive to capture the true essence of this “mild and serene, but dynamic” man whose innate nature is manifested by deep wisdom, an abiding sense of justice, graced, and intense spiritual insight. The extent, magnitude and impact of his leadership have yet to be fully revealed and appreciated.
 Miles College is a historically black college founded in 1898. It is located in Fairfield, Alabama, six miles (10 km) west of Birmingham. It is a private liberal arts institution of the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church (CME Church). Miles College is also a member of the United Negro College Fund. Miles College began organization efforts in 1893 and was founded in 1898 by the Colored Methodist Episcopal Church. It was chartered as Miles Memorial College, in honor of Bishop William H. Miles. In 1941 the name was changed to Miles College. -Wikipedia
NOTE: This concerns the preservation and possible presentation of old photographs, documents and other material that would be helpful to more fully document Baha’i history. If you have such material in your possession or know someone who does, I encourage you to contact me. Arrangements can be made to document and preserve important items. Proper credit assigned to all submissions.
Catherine Myboya (2nd row, center, #20), a member of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of Kenya , attends a meeting in her honor hosted by the Local Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of Washington, D.C. (ca. 6/1968)
Mrs. Catherine Myboya, of Kenya, Africa, and a member of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of Kenya, attends a meeting in her honor hosted by the Local Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of Washington, D.C. She is visiting the United States as a guest of the U.S. State Department from June-August 1968. She was also invited to the US National Baha’i Office. See Ref.  for details.
Those welcoming Catherine Myboya are:
1. Barry Sims
3. Dennis Norton (baby’s father)
4. Clark Langrel?
5. Betty Atkins
6. Winnifred Norton (baby’s mother)
7. William Twitty
8. Lloyd Sutton
09. Grace Chavis
10. Mrs. Boardman
11. James Sturdivant
12. Gordon Boardman
13. Barbara J. Eaton
14. Ed Barham
15. Riva Morales
16. Bessie Barham, Ed’s wife
17. Deloise Pendleton (guest)
18. James Oliver
19. Brandy Watkins
20. Catherine Myboya
21. Van Gilmer
22. Not known
23. Not known
24. Not known
25. Judith Wellman
Members of the Washington, DC Baha’i community come together to create a warm and authentic sense of community. They share this common bond and their love of the Baha’i Faith in all aspects of their lives.
Washington, DC Baha’i Center
5713 16th Street, NW
Washington, DC 20011
Tel. +1 202-291-5532
The Baha’i travel-teaching and community consolidation effort took place over a 30-day period from 1-30 Sept 2003. Click on above image to access full report.
September 26, 2003
Feast of Mashiyyat
Home of Dharumbir and Vishwanee Takan,
Bain Boeuf, Pereybere, Mauritius
Feast began with prayers. The national Baha’i newsletter was read, with portions translated into English by Ruksha. The topic of Baha’i youth participation arose and I was able to relate the story of ‘Dancing Bear’, a youth in the Washington, DC community, who, by his manner and commitment to social change, unwittingly, prepared the DC Baha’i community for the advent of the 1960s social revolution.
There was discussion of plans for Africa’s 50th year Jubilee celebration, and of Ruksha’s six-month pioneer experience to Cape Town, South Africa as participant in a special youth project. Feast adjourned with prayers at 2145.
Photographs were taken, along with explanation for my documentation of Baha’i events.
Those in attendance:
(10) Raja Takah
(9) Dharumbir Takah
(8) Terry Randolph
(7) Na’il Randolph
(6) Claude Carver
(5) Aniella Carver
(4) Catherine Carver
(3) Cathy Carver
(2) Vishwanee Takah
(1) Ruksha Takah (secretary)
The Takah home is a hub of Baha’i activities in the area. Na’il and I were kindly transported to Feast by Claude Calver in the company of his family.
Eulalia Bobo arrived in Washington, DC while traveling across the United States as a Baha’i travel teacher. She is greeted and introduced to members of the Washington Baha’i community at an event organized in her honor. Venue: Washington Baha’i Center, March 31, 1968.
Eulalia Bobo (black blouse), and to her right is Grace Chivas (other ladies not identified).
Eulalia Bobo, Speaker, “Christ’s Promise Fulfilled”, Greenville, South Carolina, 14 Oct 1961.
Eulalia Bobo, Speaker, San Mateo, California.  The Times (San Mateo, CA), 17 Oct 1963, p.25.
Eulalia Bobo is the sister of Joseph Louis Barrow (May 13, 1914 – April 12, 1981), better known as Joe Louis, an American professional boxer, and the World Heavyweight Champion from 1937 to 1949. He is considered to be one of the greatest heavyweights of all time. It’s entirely possibly that he knew of the Baha’i Faith, but was not a member.
More research required.
Note: For additional information on those attending, search this website using their names.
Photography by Terry Randolph/ObeisanceBaha Archives
Center front is William “Willie” Shipman talking with Eulalia Bobo, and behind him is Van Gilmer (dark glasses) talking with Grace Chavis.
Front-left: Sadie White, local educator (blue dress), Lecile Webster (Baha’i international pioneer and travel teacher), Ed Barham (Baha’i home-front pioneer), Francis Coley (Secretary, Local Spiritual Aassembly) and her husband, Charles “C.C.” Coley (later became Baha’i). Directly behind Francis Coley is James Oliver (Baha’i home-front pioneer to Gathersburg, Montgomery County, Maryland. Front: Zilpha Map-Robinson (Baha’i international pioneer to Uganda / green dress), and to her right is Edward “Ed” Thornton. Thedodies Washington is seen directly above Edward Thornton.
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Howard University Class, ca. 1900. Library of Congress. Unrelated to below content.
The documents are in two-parts for clarity. They lists four people who possibly were Trustees of the Baha’i Assembly of Washington, perhaps the first officially registered organisation of the Baha’i Faith in the Nations Capital. These scanned images are of xeroxed copies made from original microfilm at the Washington, D.C. Public Library, the original copies were done by Vivian Aston, a local community activist, and contain no date or reference. She discovered them by accident as she researched the history of Woodlawn Cemetery, a personal project undertaken to save the cemetery from destruction, the place of internment of many prominent African Americans. Ms. Aston had copied them intending to give them to Frances Coley, a local Baha’i, and in whose home she was an occasional guest. When Terry Randolph arrived in Washington from East Asia in the Summer of 2000 to spend time researching local Baha’i history and to make preparations to embark on an Africa Development Project. He had contacted Francis Coley to inform her of his intended and she immediately referred him to Vivian Aston. It is from her the following documents were acquired, and in turn led to additional information. Time did not permit a more detailed research into the early beginnings of the Baha’i Faith in the Nations Capital, and that presented is considered only as a ‘teaser’ to encourage others to become involved in an exciting undertaking.
On the documents provided by Ms Aston, the following individuals are listed as Trustees of the Baha’i Assembly of Washington:
Mrs. J. F. Bundy
James F. Bundy (b. 1862, d. 1914), Lawyer and Educator. Interred at Woodlawn Cemetery.
Mrs. Mattie (Kemp or Kent?)
*Click Images to enlarge
LSA Trustees (The Bundy’s-Sec. D, p50)a.jpg and LSA Trustees (The Bundy’s-Sec. D, p50)b.jpg. My personal archive image reference.
The identity numbers in the right hand column remain unknown, and the same for the last person (4.) listed on the second document, if she was also a ‘Trustee’ or not.
Harriet Bundy — Not yet established that she was a member of the Baha’i community.
Residence: 1315 thirtyth St., NW (Georgetown address). Born: March (?) 1874, Died: 17 Feb 1924 (at home), Age: 50 Yrs. & 11 Mos. Buried: 20 Feb 1924, Woodlawn Cemetery. Widowed, resident of Washington for 7 years. Husband: Willis Bundy.
Father: William Terrell (Culpepper, VA); Mother: Violet Holmes (Culpepper, VA). Information furnished by: Daughter/Emily Jones, Fairmount Heights, MD. Record Number: Z83346/Certificate Of Death, District of Columbia/Issued: 28 July 2000.
Second Record (source unknown): BUNDY, Harriet, 1850-1924: Aunt Matilda Johnson, daughter to William and Violet Terrell; P. 36. Perhaps Aunt Matilda Johnson is the person giving information.
Coralie Franklin Cook, a member of the Baha’i Faith in Washington, DC, was the wife of George William Cook. Its not known if he was also a member of the faith.
Reference: Morrison, Gayle. To Move The World: Louis G. Gregory and the Advancement of Racial Unity in America, p.140. ISBN-13:978-0877431886.
Reference: Cookman Institute Publication, p.287
When I first met Vivian Aston she was deeply commited to saving Woodlawn Cemetery from blight and ultimate destruction, a project she had worked on for several years. Francis Coley recommended I contact her because it seemed possible that she had information about the early beginnings of the Baha’i Faith in the Nations Capital. She spends an enormous amount of time doing research at the Martin Luther King Library, her primary source for information about Woodlawn. Though not of the Baha’i Faith, being of the Christian faith, she was deeply impressed by it’s principles of the faith. Through her research she happened upon information she was certain pertained to the early formation of a Baha’i institution in Washington, DC, information that related not only to the background and social status of members of the Faith during the early 1900s, and some of prominence were buried at Woodlawn Cemetery.
At some future date addition information will be provided to provide a more clear understanding of details relating to the early beginnings of the Baha’i Faith in the Nations Capital. Meanwhile see: Baha’i Faith In Washington DC
“Established in 1929, Lincoln Memorial Cemetery in Suitland, MD has rolling hills lined with beautiful trees, and is the resting place of many prestigious African Americans, some born as long ago as 1863. Lincoln memorial Cemetery offers traditional ground burials, cremation, mausoleums, and lawn crypts.”
Lot Owners: Della Bundy Turner and Delilia [sp?] Bundy
Delilia Bundy (Born About 1867), Died: 14 Feb 1955, 88yrs. Old. Arrangements: Frazier’s Funeral Home. Interment: Lincoln Memorial Cemetery.
Information provided by Lincoln Memorial Cemetery (28 Jul 2000), 4001 Suitland Road, Suitland, MD 20746. Tel.: 301-568-8410.
Additional research is required to establish the validity of the above information and discover additional facts having links with the establishment and growth of the Washington Baha’i community during it’s early years of development from about 1900 to 1955.
Lincoln Memorial Cemetery
4001 Suitland Road, Suitland, MD 20746, USA
“Designated on the DC Inventory of Historic Places and the National Register of Historic Sites, Woodlawn Cemetery was established in 1895 by several individuals associated with Graceland Cemetery (founded in 1872 and located near the inter of Benning Road and H Street NE). The initial interments at Woodlawn consisted primarily of over 6,000 re-interments from Graceland made from 1895 to 1898; as at Graceland, blacks and whites were placed in adjoining graves. Subsequent interments included many prominent African-Americans, among them Blanche K. Bruce, born a slave in 1841 and elected to the U.S. Senate in 1875, and John Mercer Langston, U.S. Representative from Virginia and Dean of the Howard University Law School from 1869 to 1879. Despite attempts by loyal volunteers to maintain the cemetery, it remains severely deteriorated.”
4611 Benning Rd SE, Washington, DC 20019, USA
Sunday Morning Baha’i Childrens Class, Baha’i Centre, Asmara, Eritrea (Sept 2000)
The history of Eritrea can be traced back to ancient Egyptian times when the ancient Puntites who then dominated the land had close ties with Pharaoh Sahure and Queen Hatshepsut. The Aksumite Kingdom (also spelled Aksum, or Axum), rose to power during the 1st century AD. The countries of the ‘Horn of Africa’—generally, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia and Somalia, were the birthplace of ancient civilizations as well as many modern cultural achievements. The region underwent a series of major successive influences brought by South Arabians, Ottoman Turks, the Portuguese, the Egyptians, the British, and finally in the 19th century by the Italians.
To acquire appreciation for the growth and development of the Baha’i Faith into a global community since its founding in 1844 is to understand that this process unfolded without the specter of warfare, a method employed by several of its predecessors, and takes into account the challenges it faced within historical context of occurrence.
It is the Horn of Africa, a sometime turbulent region intertwined with an ethnicity common to Eritrea and Ethiopia, and challenged by other regional influences, that saw the arrival of its first-ever Baha’i pioneers. The establishment of the faith in this region is interwoven with a series of national and international events, and influenced by its rich cultural diversity.
Knight of Bahá’u’lláh
In 1933 the first to arrive in the region was Sabri Elias, a young man seventeen years of age and former member of the Coptic Christian Church. He had responded to a call by the Baha’i community of Egypt for a “suitable person” to undertake a dual mission to Ethiopia: (a) investigate the news that certain individuals in Addis Ababa considered themselves to be Baha’is; and (b) if the claim was found groundless, to then open that land to the Baha’i Faith. Mr. Elias arrived in Addis Ababa in January 1934, and his efforts to find those who claimed to be Baha’i did not bear fruit. As a result he focused mainly on teaching the Baha’i Faith, to establish it in the country. His hard work proved successful, and he was subsequently designated a ‘Knight of Bahá’u’lláh’. Other Bahá’ís who came with their families later joined Mr. Sabri Elias, and on November 8, 1934 they (10 adult Baha’is) elected the first Local Spiritual Assembly in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Members: Atto, Sium Gabril [sp]-Chairman, Atto, Haila Gabril-Vice-Chairman, Habib Boutros, Sabri Elias-Secretary, Edouard Goubran, El-Saad Said, El-Saad Mansour, Abdu’llahi Ahmed, and Aurahil Egsabaihir.
Mr. Elias would shuttle between Eritrea and Alexandria, Egypt engaged in translating and printing various Baha’i materials. The Baha’i community was severely impacted due to the Second Italo-Abyssinian War, which caused many of its members to depart the country; also Mr. Elias, who in 1955 decided to return to Egypt.
Ten-Year World Crusade
The ‘Ten Year World Crusade’ (1953-1963) was launched by Shoghi Effendi to facilitate an organized expansion of the Baha’i Faith. During this period the Baha’i community of Ethiopia was under the jurisdiction of the ‘National Spiritual Assembly of Egypt and Sudan’. In 1956 it was renamed the ‘National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of North-East Africa’, with its seat in Cairo, Egypt. Administratively, its geographical area included: French Somaliland, Egypt, Sudan, Abyssinia, Libya, Eritrea, British Somaliland, Italian Somaliland, and Socotra Island.
Consolidation Territory in Africa
The Bahá’í Community of Abyssinia, now know as Ethiopia, in 1962 was designated a ‘Consolidation Territory in Africa’ and placed under administration of the National Spiritual Assembly of Egypt and Sudan. Previously, it was part of the Regional Spiritual Assembly of North-East Africa that was formed in 1956. During 1955-1956, Bahá’í Holy Days and Bahá’í Marriage certificates received official recognition, and the Local Spiritual Assembly of Addis Ababa obtained long-sort legal incorporation.
Baha’i Faith Established in Eritrea
Mr. Azmach Seyoum Gebriel, said to be the first to accept the faith in Addis Ababa, left Ethiopia in 1955 to settle in Eritrea. He was a member of the first Local Spiritual Assembly formed in Asmara, and his son, Tamerat Seyoum, is said to be the first to accept the Baha’i Faith in that city.
Aftermath of the Ten-Year Crusade
During 1968, after the conclusion of the Ten-Year Crusade, Sudan, Somalia and Ethiopia were formed as a Regional Assembly. Its members were: Gila Michael Bahta, Dr. Leo Neiderreitter, Gamal Rushdy, Asfaw Tessema, Dr. Heshmat Farhoumand, Dr. Hushang Ahdieh, Ursula Samandari, Assefaw Habte Michael, and Rabbi Teele Mariam. This body, well into 1969, put forth a number of initiatives and organized collective effort to extend Baha’i teaching to outlying areas in the region it administered. They were able to recruit international Baha’i speakers to assist with the project, and also formulated plans to establish a Baha’i winter school.
Baha’i Faith Banned in Egypt
The Baha’i Faith was officially banned in Egypt in 1960, at which time its seat was moved to Addis Ababa. Ethiopia was now deprived of its main source of support and by 1963 there was only one local Baha’i administrative body, the Local Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of Addis Ababa. In addition there were seven groups: Adua, Alamaya, Debrezeit, Dessie, Dire-Dawa, Gondar, and Jimma; and twelve individual believers residing in the following areas: Adigrat, Ambo, Awassa, Bedele, Endeselasie, Gorsum, Harar, Hosana, Kalafo, Nazareth, Wollisso, Wonji. However the faith continued to develop in the region, and later saw the election of national Baha’i administrative bodies in Sudan (1971) and Somalia (1973).
With Sudan and Somalia now having duly elected National Spiritual Assemblies, and with the Baha’i Faith being officially banned in Egypt and Libya, in 1975 the seat of the Baha’i Faith (previously moved in 1960 from Egypt to Addis Ababa) was renamed ‘The National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of Ethiopia’. Its jurisdiction not only included Ethiopia, but also Eritrea and Djibouti.
As previously noted, Azmach Seyoum Gebriel was said to be the first to accept the faith in Addis Ababa. He later left Ethiopia to settle in Eritrea, and became a member of the first Local Spiritual Assembly formed in Asmara in 1955. His son, Tamerat Seyoum, is said to be the first to accept the Baha’i Faith in Asmara. From these early beginnings the community developed to the point where in 1995 saw the election of the first National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of Eritrea, and headquartered in Asmara. 
 Somali people, the ‘Land of Punt’, also called Pwenet, or Pwene by the ancient Egyptians. Some biblical scholars have identified it with the biblical land of Put. The exact location of Punt is still debated by historians, but most scholars believe Punt was located to the southeast of Egypt, most likely in the coastal region of what today are northern Somalia, Djibouti, Eritrea, Northeast Ethiopia and the Red Sea coast of Sudan. However, some scholars point instead to a range of ancient inscriptions that locate Punt in the Arabian Peninsula. Therefore, it is also possible that the territory covered both the Horn of Africa and Southern Arabia.
 During the first century AD, Aksum began a rapid rise to prominence, trading its agricultural resources and its gold and ivory through the port of Adulis into the Red Sea trade network, and thence to the Roman Empire. Trade through Adulis also connected eastward to India, providing Aksum and its rulers a profitable connection between both Rome and the east.
 There are also broader definitions, the most common of which include the countries of Kenya, Sudan, South Sudan, and Uganda.
 In 1935, Benito Mussolini, the Fascist leader of Italy, had adopted Adolf Hitler’s plans to expand German territories by acquiring all territories it considered German. Mussolini followed this policy when he invaded Ethiopia. His main aim of invading Ethiopia was to boost Italian national prestige, which was wounded by Ethiopia’s defeat of Italian forces at the Battle of Adowa in 1896, which saved Ethiopia from Italian colonization. Mussolini saw it as an opportunity to provide land for unemployed Italians and also acquire more mineral resources to fight off the effects of the Great Depression. Ref.: Toynbee, A. (1946). A study of history, London: Oxford UP University Press.
 In 1956 National Spiritual Assemblies were formed: Central & East Africa, North West Africa, South & West Africa.
 In 1956 Eritrea was part of North-East Africa, Abyssinia. Ref.: http://bahai-library.com/hassall_bahai_communities_country#24