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Willa Townsend was born on this date in 1880. She was an African American educator.
From Nashville, TN Willa Ann Hadley Townsend was the daughter of Sam P. and Mary Hadley. She was educated in Nashville public schools and received degrees from Fisk University, Roger Williams University, and Northwestern University, as well as a degree in religious education from the National Baptist Missionary Training School. Young Hadley taught in Nashville's public schools, at Roger Williams University, and at the Howe Institute in Memphis. She also served as organist and music director for Spruce Street Baptist Church.
It was at church where she met and married Arthur M. Townsend, a physician. When her husband became president of Roger Williams University, she worked as music director of the university's singers. The Roger Williams Singers toured, raising funds and built three buildings on the campus; yet the university closed in December 1929. As a hymnologist, songwriter, and music director, one of Townsend's most outstanding works was the Baptist Standard Hymnal. She also served as chair for the Sunday School Publishing Board of the National Baptist Convention, U.S.A., Inc.; compiling and editing "Gospel Pearls" and "Spirituals Triumphant." This work is still used today by many Black Baptist churches.
Townsend belonged to several civic organizations, including the Women's Auxiliary of the Nashville Medical Association and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. Willa A. Townsend died on Sunday morning, May 25, 1947.
The biographical dictionary of Black Americans
by Rachel Krantz and Elizabeth A.Ryan
Copyright 1992, Facts on File, New York, NY