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Wilbur P. Thirkield Wilbur Patterson Thirkield was born on September 25, 1854 in Franklin, Ohio. He was the son of Eden Burrows Thirkield, a prominent merchant of that town. The Thirkield family had long been involved with the Methodist Church. James E. Thirkield, Wilbur's grandfather, had moved from Pennsylvania into the Miami River Valley in 1817. In 1825, James and his wife Jane signed the original charter for a Methodist Church in their new hometown of Franklin. Wilbur's family was devoted to Methodism. His father taught Sunday school for years at the church was considered by nearly everyone in Franklin to be a pious man. It is not surprising that at least one of the family would eventually enter the clergy. Wilbur attended Ohio Wesleyan University and the theology school of Boston University. He ultimately received his Doctor of Divinity from the latter school. For most of his career, Wilbur Thirkield championed the cause of education for African Americans. From 1883 to 1900, he was the first president of the Gammon Theological Seminary. From 1900 until 1906 he was in Cincinnati, Ohio as the general secretary of the Freedman's Aid and Southern Education Society of the Methodist Episcopal Church. Reverend Thirkield served as president of Howard University from 1906 until his election to bishop on June 1, 1912. During his tenure at Howard, he was friends with Booker T. Washington, the latter being a member of the board of trustees of the school. Mr. Washington was one of the reverend's strongest supporters on the board at the time. As Bishop Thirkield, Wilbur left Howard to take up duties with the Methodist Church. He died in 1934.