Knoxville College Alumnus


A June 1935 graduate of Booker T. Washington High School, the Reverend St. Paul Epps was the first student to enroll in Norfolk State University. As a student-commit of the then-Norfolk Division of Virginia Union University, Epps began a personal campaign to recruit students for the junior college.

Going door-to-door along with Samuel Fischer Scott, the college’s first director, and G.W.C. Brown, its business manager, Epps helped recruit many of the 85 students at Norfolk State when classes officially began on September 23, 1935. Epps went on to graduate from Knoxville College in 1939, and later became the only African American in his graduating class when he received his Masters of Divinity from Pittsburgh-Xenia Theological Seminary in 1942. His ministerial leadership included serving as executive director for the Fund for Self Development of People in the Presbyterian Church, USA, as well as a notable pastorage of Bel-Vue Community Presbyterian Church in the Watts neighborhood of Los Angeles, California. The church, which was the first African American United Presbyterian Church west of the Mississippi River, grew to nearly 800 members during his tenure. A champion for civil rights and human dignity, Epps, who was very involved in the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the Boy Scouts, died on September 16, 2015 at age 98–just two days before the 79th anniversary of the founding of Norfolk State. He leaves behind a remarkable legacy his fellow Spartans may forever herald as: “Behold, the Green and Gold.”

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