Centennial Hall at Edward Waters University

Centennial Hall at Edward Waters University; (c) Soul Of America

Edward Waters University


Following the Civil War, Reverend Charles H. Pearce, presiding Elder of the AME Church, was sent to Florida in 1865 to establish the African Methodist Episcopal Church by Bishop Daniel Alexander Payne. Reverend Pearce, observed the need for an educated ministry for newly emancipated Blacks in the state.

Aided by the Reverend William G. Steward, the first AME pastor in the state, he raised funds to establish a school in 1866, which evolved as Edward Waters College. Courses were first offered at the elementary, high school, college, and seminary levels.

In 1870, during the session of Florida’s Tallahassee Conference of the AME Church, a resolution was passed to set aside church funds to expand the offerings of the school.

The Conference proceeded to name its educational organization the Brown Theological Institute, chartered by the state legislature in 1872. It then purchased ten acres of land in Live Oak where construction of the first building was undertaken.

Further support for the effort was garnered from numerous friends, including railroad magnate General M.S. Littlefield, State Treasurer, Simon Conaber, and Lieutenant-General William Gleason.

In 1872, the name was changed to “Brown University.” But financial difficulties arising from an embezzlement scheme awarded both school properties to creditors. Consequently, the school ceased to function for a decade. There followed a series of name changes, adjustments in program offerings, and eventually changed locations.

By 1883, the school was reopened as the “East Florida Conference High School” and later the “East Florida Scientific and Divinity High School.”

Within a decade, educational programs were extended and the name was changed to Edward Waters College (1892) in honor of the third bishop of the AME Church. Waters (1780-1847), a native of West River, Missouri, was a licensed preacher in Baltimore, MD, and consecrated as a bishop in 1836.

By 1901, this rebuilding progress was interrupted by a fire that completely destroyed the College and much of the City of Jacksonville. Then following several years in rented quarters, Edward Waters College acquired (1904) the present Kings Road site and began to develop it under the leadership of Bishop M.B. Salter.

Substantial expansion occurred from 1912-1928, beginning with the construction of Hurst Hall, a three-story dormitory for males. The Centennial Building (constructed in 1916), and the B.F. Lee Theological Seminary (constructed in 1925) now serve as the College’s administration building.

During the great depression, high school and the third and fourth years of College were discontinued as the organization assumed for a time the role of a two-year junior college. Following the 1930s, the building program was resumed as a cafeteria and a women’s dormitory were constructed.

The H.Y. Tookes Building was completed in 1945 and served as the central library (until 1979) when the Centennial Building was renovated for that purpose.

Edward Waters College was first accredited in 1955 as a junior college by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. In 1958, the school expanded to offer senior college work.

By 1960 the college restored its four-year curriculum and granted the bachelor’s degree. Accreditation as a four-year college was approved by SACS in 1979.

In 1985, average full-time enrollment grew to 650 students, and the college became the 43rd member of the United Negro College Fund. Edward Waters College became Edward Waters University in 2021.

Academic Merit

Edward Waters University is accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. Its curriculum programs are designed to provide a high-quality undergraduate 21st-century education. EWC awards the following 15 undergraduate degrees:

Political Science
Religion and Philosophy
Criminal Justice
Elementary Education
Computer Information Systems
Physical Education
Business Administration for a major in Organizational Management (CLIMB) and Business Administration.

Edward Waters College requires each student to complete a course in African American History and Biblical Studies in keeping with the unique mission of the College. Consistent with the College’s African Methodist Episcopal mission, students receive a solid collegiate-level liberal arts foundation.

It’s a good undergraduate school for those planning advanced degrees in Christian ministry.

Campus Life

Located on 90 acres, the college straddles both sides of Kings Road, a major boulevard. Otherwise, the college retains a quaint small college feel with a high teacher-to-student ratio. Campus assets for students include a Wireless Computer Lab, Super Computer Lab, Student General Purpose Lab, Teaching Lab, Centennial Library Lab, Math Lab, Reading Lab, and the Schell-Sweet Community Lab.

A small set of residences are on campus and a fair number of students are commuters.

The school places a high value on developing morally and well-accepted citizens among its students. To that end, all On-Campus Students must attend chapel every Wednesday morning, which is also Professional Dress Day and you are expected to bring business casual attire in order to be properly dressed for school-based special occasions.

The college library also features a distinctive collection of African art. And there are athletics, band, choir, and community uplift activities aplenty.

ADDRESS: 1760 Kings Road, Jacksonville, FL MAP
PHONE: 904-470-8000
WEBSITE: https://www.ewc.edu