OURSTORY: Icons of African American Entreprenuership
As a child Blanche Oden, had an entrepreneurial inquisitiveness about her. She wondered why there weren’t more Black Businesses.
After finishing business school 1916, she would secure a business job and fell in love with and married Mr. George Tucker Sr. and they would have a son, George Tucker Jr. Now working in a professional setting, Mrs. Tucker’s job would always have a high demand for office workers in the summer due to employees vacationing. She would get educated Black women, (then called Colored) hired and they would work well, but couldn’t find enough that had typing, shorthand, and office skills.
She thought, “Wouldn’t it be nice if we had a school that could teach other Black Women the world of Business, along with these skills, and how to manage an office?”
Thus, Blanche Oden Tucker opened the Tucker Business Institute Service Company on March 5, 1921 in St. Louis, Mo. in her home on the corner of Cook & Pendleton Ave. with one student, (Doris Harris, and one typewriter. The B & W photo shows the original site.
On September 6, 1923, the school’s name was changed to the Tucker Business College. The original site was lost to a fire, so they moved the college to a new location at 4366 Cook Ave., pictured in a contemporary photo above.
Mrs. Tucker would advertise the school in this very paper, the Saint Louis Argus. Blanche & George Tucker, her husband, made sure the college offered day and evening classes to better serve the students who had other jobs while trying to learn new skills at Tucker Business College. According to Dr. John A. Wright’s book, the Ville, “In 1929, Tucker Business College added a Dormitory and Letter Shop.” Yes,…a dormitory for Black people in St. Louis, for college, in North St. Louis,…..CITY!
The Tucker Business College had a Service Department. Students that studied Stenography, provided typing for the Citizens of St. Louis. Tucker Business College enrolled Black Students from twenty-seven different states across American, including Alberta, Canada.
In 1941, Tau Beta Chi Sorority was organized at Tucker Business College. Sports even entered the picture at Tucker. In 1949, a Law & Economics Professor, named Mr. Warren St. James started a basketball team at the Tucker Business College even expanded St. Louis College. Many young men enrolled in the school after World War II, with an excess of over 300 men to a branch in East St. Louis, Illinois in order to provide classes for the residents of East St. Louis & neighboring cities of Illinois.
Hundreds of graduates from Tucker were later employed all over the region; at St. Louis City Hall, the YMCA, the YWCA, the Urban League, both Public and Private Schools. Black women & men were now working in Government Agencies as stenographers and clerks throughout St. Louis, just 56 years after the very same women & men would possibly have been toiling under the yoke of slavery in St. Louis, Missouri.
In addition, Tucker graduates would fill office positions at Sumner & Vashon High School, Stowe Teacher’s College, (now Harris-Stowe State University), Homer G. Phillips Hospital, as well as in the offices of Attorneys and Religious Institutions of St. Louis
According to Ms. Fannie Williams, Tucker Business College graduates would go on to teach Commercial Classes in Douglas High School in Columbia, Missouri, Douglas High in Webster Groves, Fort Smith, Arkansas High School, and even in Laurel, Mississippi at Oak Park. Mrs. Tucker is a soaring tribute to little girls who have vision, and act upon them with effort and action. She provided a tremendous alternative to the former subjugation and educational limitation that our city and country once used to limit us. (slavery) She revolutionized an alternative learning for Black People in our world, directly, in our city, the Black Part, beginning in the early 1920’s.
Next year, 2021, will mark the 100th Anniversary of Mrs. Blanche Tucker opening the Tucker Business College in St. Louis, Mo. Blanche Tucker belongs in every history book, whether it be Black History or American History. Young people can see what a black woman did in the 1920’s, and be encouraged in 2020.
Blanche Tucker’s accomplishments are very special to Black People, Women Entrepreneurs, and Educators everywhere. In 45 years, Mrs. Tucker touched the lives of over 50 thousand black students. Mrs. Blanche L. Oden Tucker is also very special to my family and I. She is the sister of my Grandmother who gave birth to my father, 22 days after the opening of Tucker Business College. A new Business & a new baby boy. Thus, Mrs. Tucker is my Great Aunt. My father would tell me as a child, “You have teaching in your blood.” Blanche Tucker is part of my family’s history, St. Louis’ History, American History, and Black History. Thus, it belongs to all of us. It’s OUR STORY.
A special thank you to Ms. Fannie Williams, and Dr. John A. Wright, whose research helped enhance this article, & also for helping to preserve Tucker Business College & Mrs. Blanche L. Oden Tucker’s story.