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Boone County Historical Society elects new members to Hall of Fame

Each year, the Boone County Historical Society recognizes those who have made a lasting contribution to the county through their professional or philanthropic lives, inducting into its Hall of Fame one individual posthumously, one business or organization and one living individual.

The society announced in a news release its 2022 enshrinees are Henry Kirklin, Columbia College and Cindy Mustard. The three will be honored and celebrated at the Boone County “History Makers” Gala on Oct. 14 in the Kimball Ballroom of Lela Raney Wood Hall at Stephens College.

Henry Kirklin changed the landscape

Kirklin, the 2022 posthumous inductee, was a prize-winning horticulturist, entrepreneur, and educator. Born into slavery and denied a formal education, his techniques for growing fruit and vegetables were nationally acclaimed. Consulted by many, including Booker T. Washington, he would become very successful.

It’s widely believed Kirklin was the first African American to teach at the University of Missouri, though in an unofficial capacity. Joseph Douglass, a local greenhouse and nursery owner with ties to the university, employed Kirklin at a young age, which led to a position at MU’s horticulture department as a greenhouse supervisor and gardener.

“Kirklin’s skills at managing plants were striking, and he was quickly given the role of teaching students practical gardening skills,” the society stated in the release. “But despite his obvious talent, he was forbidden from teaching inside in a classroom and was never given an official faculty position.”

Rodney Sheley of Columbia gives an impassioned history of Henry Kirklin, a Black man born into slavery in 1858 who would become a Columbia farmer, educator, businessman and agriculture enthusiast.

An almost immediate success, Kirklin started a farm in Columbia after his time at the university. He was known to mentor and financially assist young Black students who wanted to go to Lincoln University, the only local university open to Black students at the time, according to the release.

Kirklin and his wife, Martha, are buried at the historic Columbia Cemetery. In 2020, community members raised funds for a monument for the couple. The following year, the university dedicated its new Plant Sciences Laboratory to Kirklin.

Columbia College owns a wide educational footprint

The Missouri Legislature in 1851 granted a charter to Christian College, which would become Columbia College. Advertised as the first women’s college west of the Mississippi River, Columbia College emerged as virtually a sister college to the University of Missouri, sharing leadership, faculty and curriculum in the early days, according to the release.

Columbia College

Christian College in 1970 transitioned from a two-year, all-female school to Columbia College, a four-year, co-educational institution. That decade also saw the college become one of the first on military bases nationwide, following a request by the US Armed Forces, a presence that continues today.

“Its national footprint spans from the State of Washington to California, from Florida to Illinois, and all points in between,” the society stated in the release. “Columbia College was also one of the first institutions in the country to begin offering online courses, beginning in 2000.”

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