Jacob Price Historical Marker Returns to Covington Ground
The historical marker honoring Jacob Price was taken down and placed in storage in 2015 as the housing projects named for him were to be razed and replaced by River's Edge at Eastside Pointe.
Now the marker is back in view in a new location.
Price, who died in 1923, was a pastor at the Black Baptist Church on Bremen Street (what is now the First Baptist Church), and later became pastor at Ninth Street Baptist Church. In 1866, he joined others to establish a school for African-American children. The first classes were held in Price’s home. Later, in 1886, he worked to establish the William Grant School, later known as the Lincoln-Grant School.
The marker in his honor is now in the ground outside First Baptist Church at 120 E. Ninth St.
Its new location is more befitting the late Covington pastor’s religious and educational legacy, said Rev. Richard Fowler, who is now the pastor at the church.
“The idea of acknowledging him with the housing area in 1939 was somewhat of a political move as far as appeasing minorities and the black community in the city,” said the Fowler, referencing the Jacob Price housing complex’s historically predominantly African-American population. “This location is more connected to Jacob Price’s life.”
That’s because Price’s strongest areas of influence, Rev. Fowler said, included leading several congregations, running a successful lumber business, and facilitating a free public education for Covington’s African American children.
While the complex was named after Price when it was built in 1939, the historical marker honoring his contributions wasn’t erected until much later.
Its location never seemed appropriate to Rev. Fowler and others.
So in 2015, as the Jacob Price housing project was being razed and replaced with the River’s Edge, Rev. Fowler asked officials from the Housing Authority of Covington (HAC) about plans for the marker and for recognizing other African-American influences.
“The discussion was really exciting at that time, but then, when the buildings were gone and the plaque was gone, so was the conversation,” he said.
Rev. Fowler wasn’t defeated. When he reached out to the housing authority years later, he found a willing listener in its new executive director, Steve Arlinghaus, who was “very receptive” to resurrecting the marker at a spot near the church and school.
“We wanted it to be in a visible location, a prominent location, a connected location, as far as the church is concerned,” Rev. Fowler said.
Also on board was the pastor of First Baptist Church, Adam Crews.
Rev. Fowler and others worked with state agencies who oversaw the historic marker program, and on May 20 of this year, the City of Covington held a re-dedication for the historical marker.
Rev. Fowler was joined by Pastor Crews and members of First Baptist, Mayor Joe Meyer, Commissioner Michelle Williams, Eastside community advocate and former City Commissioner Pam Mullins, Arlinghaus, and HAC Deputy Director Chris Bradburn.
“We wanted to let the community see that we haven’t forgotten,” Rev. Fowler said.
Properly honoring Price’s memory and legacy – and better understanding the times in which he lived – are important for reasons related to education, history, and today’s youth, he said.
Even the words on the marker itself only hint at the resilience and tenacity of a man who succeeded against the insurmountable odds of a period that surely bet on his failure.
To share a glimpse into the racism that Price and other local African-Americans faced, Rev. Fowler quoted an excerpt from The Life and Legacy of Lincoln-Grant School, Covington, Kentucky, 1866 – 1976, by Joseph M. Walton, a 1958 graduate of Lincoln-Grant School and a University of Akron professor.
The passage is from a Covington Journal editorial, dated October 1872, during Price’s era:
“We bear willing testimony to the general good conduct of negroes in Covington. In the main, they are industrious and well-behaved. Many of them are church members. Some of them take a lively interest in the education of their children. In their religious views, they are tolerant. At least we know of nothing to the contrary. The negro in politics is a very different sort of negro. The moment he enters the political arena, he becomes intolerant and overbearing with those of his own color, especially, he tolerates no difference of opinion.”
As shocking and offensive as that language and attitude are, “That was the environment of Jacob Price,” Rev. Fowler said. “That’s how newspapers could talk about blacks at that time. To think that he could maintain a business in that era and survive some 30 years - how could he do that?”
But while the Jacob Price historical marker speaks to the community’s past, it’s also a symbol of leadership and inspiration for new generations, Rev. Fowler said.
Among Covington’s 30 state historical markers, four recognize African-American contributions: the first African-American Elks organization in the nation, co-founded by Benjamin Howard; Dr. James Randolph, the first African-American physician on staff at St. Elizabeth Hospital; Ben Lucien Burman, hailed as a “new Mark Twain” for his stories of river life along the Ohio River; and now, Price.
In addition to state historical markers, HAC installed numerous plaques at the River’s Edge community gazebo, at 10th and Greenup Streets, recognizing the contributions of other African-Americans in the Eastside neighborhood. One such is Elizabeth Delaney, who owned the E.B. Delaney Funeral Home.
“Those were folks who were role models – models of what can be done,” Rev. Fowler said. “Covington wasn’t to the level of Tulsa’s Greenwood, but still we had our own community, our small grocery stores, bars, barbershops, and beauticians … people who did business, whether they were mechanics, carpenters, or other things.”
For Rev. Fowler, inspiration was also found among the African American teachers who led by example, attending community churches and buying their own homes.
“We had that community, those role models that provided not just survival but success. Their very presence spurred inspiration and hope among young black students,” he said.
He believes that’s still true, that teachers can inspire students to succeed broadly, and cites 2018 Holmes High School graduate Alaria Long as an example. Long went on to earn an education degree from Kentucky State College. In April, she returned to Covington for her student teaching at Glenn O. Swing Elementary alongside her favorite teacher, Rachel Jenkins.
As with Rev. Fowler, teachers played a significant role in her life.
“All of my teachers in Covington Independent Schools had a major impact on me academically and emotionally … (and) paved the way for me to be successful after high school, in college, and beyond,” Long said.
Having moved on to teach sixth-grade math at Newport Intermediate School, she will now herself be a role model for young minds, paying forward from those who influenced her.