Last week, I wondered where time went because it finally sunk in that I was facing my own ten year high school reunion. Then I came across a 1981 article in The Wiley Reporter (a publication of Wiley College) about Lillian B. Dunn making plans to attend her seventy-fifth college reunion with other members of the class of 1906. Born barely a generation removed from slavery, I marveled at what she experienced over her long life. The Times-Picayune summarized it best: 18 presidents, two world wars, and a depression.
Lillian B. Dunn neé Landry was born in 1888 in Donaldsonville, Louisiana to Pierre Landry and Florence Simpkins, her father’s second wife. Pierre Landry, was the mayor of Donaldsonville at one point, was the son of an enslaved black woman and a slave master. In 1895, the family moved to New Orleans when her father was named to a pastorate there. She attended public school in New Orleans until her father was assigned to Gilbert Academy in 1900 where she graduated high school four years later, the same year her mother passed away. She then entered Wiley College and completed the Teachers Normal Course and Music in 1906. The following session, she became a member of faculty where she taught until 1909. She then went on to teach at the Haydel Private School in Wallace, Louisiana.
In 1910, her father asked her to read his annual report at the Methodist Conference where she had a fateful encounter with a young minister named Reverend Henderson H. Dunn. They would marry December 28, 1910 and go on to have five daughters together. Mrs. Dunn became a housewife and remained involved in her husband’s church, Central Congregational Church of New Orleans, where she served as an organist and soprano soloist. She remained happily married until her husband died in 1955. Many people wrote her letters to send their condolences after his death.
Mrs. Dunn remained heavily active in the church and in community affairs. She served as treasurer of the Women’s Auxiliary of Flint-Goodridge Hospital for seven years and of the B-Sharp Music Club of New Orleans for over forty years. She also annually presented trophies to deserving students at the Henderson H. Dunn School which was named for her husband. Mrs. Dunn also remained involved with her alma mater Wiley College by attending reunions and other events. She followed closely followed current events and was an active member of the Democratic Party. She was also an avid concert-goer. In 1981, she was known for being a youthful 93 year old for which she credits her children and keeping up with the times.
Mrs. Dunn passed away in 1983 at the age of 95 after a long illness. She continued her family’s legacy of education and achievement through her daughters and grandchildren.
Image from the Dunn-Landry Family Papers. Images from Amistad’s website, newsletters, and blogs cannot be reproduced without permission.