Family Research – English, Scottish and Irish Genealogy



Alabama Coat of Arms

In Montgomery, Alabama, later today the Presiding Officer George Reid will attend a series of events to mark Scotland ‘s historic contribution to education for black Americans. The visit, part of Tartan Week, will celebrate the 19th century founding of Alabama State University , by a Scot, William Burns Paterson.


The Scottish Parliament

In Montgomery, Alabama, later today the Presiding Officer George Reid will attend a series of events to mark Scotland’s historic contribution to education for black Americans, in the country’s southern states. The visit follows Tartan Week celebrations in America and Canada.

At Alabama State University, founded after the American Civil War by Scot, William Burns Paterson, the Presiding Officer will be welcomed by the university’s President, Joe Lee, and by members of the Paterson family.

At the university, the Presiding Officer will deliver a lecture on Scotland’s contribution to education in America. There will also be academic papers presented on freedom of education in America.

In the evening a reception will be held at Alabama State University, with guests including the Presiding Officer, Lord Lieutenant of Clackmannanshire Sheena Cruickshank, members of the Paterson family and university faculty and staff.

On Friday (8 April) the Presiding Officer will meet Alabama’s Governor Riley at the State Capitol before his visit concludes with a tour of Montgomery, given by the Paterson family.

Paying tribute to the Scot’s legacy in Montgomery, Presiding Officer George Reid said:

“William Burns Paterson played a key role in developing education for all, just as fellow Scot, Andrew Carnegie supported the nearby Tuskegee Institute.

“In 1870, William Burns Paterson left Tullibody, which now forms part of my own constituency. He would have had no idea then of the lasting impact his work was to have, upon the lives of so many, so far from home.

“Each and every year, his legacy lives on through the thousands of students who graduate from the modern-day Alabama State University.”


William Burns Paterson was born in Tullibody, Clackmannanshire, on 9 February 1849. He arrived in America in 1867, and worked in a wide number of jobs across all but five states of the USA.

In 1870, he settled in Alabama, and became a US citizen. By the next year he had founded the Tullibody School, teaching a range of subjects himself to black students.

That same year he wrote to his family back in Scotland about the racial violence inflicted upon the black population of Alabama:

“Every man and boy goes armed and most of the ladies too… Then there is a sort of vigilance committee sometimes called Ku Klux Klan which does pretty much as it has a mind to.” – William Burns Paterson.

In 1887, he founded, and was first President of, the Alabama Colored People’s University, following the racist destruction by fire of its predecessor, the Lincoln State Normal School. Following 37 years of service, William Burns Paterson died in 1915.

Following a number of other name changes, the institution he founded became Alabama State University in 1969.

The following members of the Paterson family will attend the events in Montgomery; John Burns Paterson and Betty Van Paterson, Ann O’Neal, Robert Russell Jnr and Laurie Russell, Pierce and Ann Lauren Russell, Patsy Paterson Chappelle, Junie Paterson, and Mr and Mrs Burns Paterson III.

© Parliamentary copyright.
Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body 2004

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