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About Clinton Bowen Fisk
Clinton Bowen Fisk (December 8, 1828 – July 9, 1890), for whom Fisk University is named, was a senior officer during Reconstruction in the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen and Abandoned Lands. He endowed Fisk University with $30,000. In addition, he helped establish the first free public schools in the South for white and African-American children.
Fisk was born in York, Livingston County, New York, the son of Benjamin and Lydia Fisk. As part of the 19th-century westward migration, his family soon moved to Coldwater, Michigan. He studied in the preliminary course at Albion Seminary before becoming one of the five students to matriculate on the opening day of Michigan Central College (now Hillsdale College) in 1844. Fisk later became a merchant, miller, and banker in Coldwater. He suffered financial disaster in the Panic of 1857. He moved to St. Louis, Missouri where he started working in the insurance business.
An abolitionist, Fisk was appointed colonel of the 33rd Missouri Infantry of the Union Army on September 5, 1862. He organized a brigade and was commissioned brigadier general November 24, 1862. He served most of the American Civil War in Missouri and Arkansas, commanding first the District of Southeast Missouri and later the Department of North Missouri. The primary duty of these commands was opposing raids into Missouri by Confederate States of America cavalry and guerrillas.
Freedmen's Bureau and Fisk University
After the Civil War, Fisk was appointed assistant commissioner of the Freedmen's Bureau for Kentucky and Tennessee. He worked through the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen and Abandoned Lands and the American Missionary Association to establish the first free schools in the Southern United States for both African-American and white children.
He made the abandoned barracks in Nashville, Tennessee available to the American Missionary Association for the creation of the Fisk School, and endowed it with a total of $30,000.
After authorizing legislation expired for the Freedmen's Bureau, Fisk returned to his native New York. He became successful in banking. In 1874 President Ulysses S. Grant appointed him to the Board of Indian Commissioners.
Fisk was a leader in the temperance movement and became the presidential candidate for the Prohibition Party in the United States presidential election, 1888. He came in third with 249,506 votes. The election was won by Benjamin Harrison of the Republican Party. Fisk was also surpassed by the incumbent President of the United States Grover Cleveland of the Democratic Party. But, Fisk did receive one of the highest results of any Prohibition Party candidate in history. The Party has run candidates in every presidential election since the United States presidential election, 1872.
Fisk died in New York City on July 9, 1890, and was buried in Coldwater, Michigan.
Legacy and honors
Fisk University was named after him; his work and funds contributed to education for generations of young people.
In 2001 he was the first to be inducted into the new Hillsdale County, Michigan Veterans' Hall of Fame, for his distinguished service in the American Civil War. (Hall of Fame inductee 001, Civil War inductee 001.)
Temperance Park, a planned community on Staten Island, New York, named one of its major streets Clinton B. Fisk Avenue in his honor. The name remains, although the community changed its name to Westerleigh.