Julia Tarrant Barron is the founding mother of Howard College and played an important role in Alabama Baptist history. She was born in South Carolina but moved with her family to the Alabama territory at a young age. In 1828, she married William Barron, a prosperous businessman in Perry County. About a year later, she gave birth to their only son, John Thomas Barron. William died in 1832, leaving Julia with a large estate.
Barron became one of the wealthiest women in Marion, Ala. She was well respected among the community and a prominent member of Siloam Baptist Church. Little is known of Barron’s specific church work, but in 1840, Baptist historian Hosea Holcomb described the women of Siloam Baptist Church as “precious ones of the earth—such as an apostle would commend: they follow Jesus, ministering unto him—and ‘have been succourers of many, and of myself also.’”
In 1838, Barron invited General E. D. King and other Baptist leaders to her home to discuss organizing a Baptist school for young women. That year, she rented a building for the school and invited the newly elected school president, Dr. Milo P. Jewett, and his wife to stay with her free of charge. The school opened as the Judson Female Institute in 1839 with Baron’s son, John Thomas, enrolled as one of the “young ladies.”
1n 1841, James H. DeVotie, pastor at Siloam Baptist Church, is believed to have discussed the idea of starting a college for men with Barron and other Baptist leaders. Although the specifics of her role in the founding of Howard College is not known, it is thought that Barron took part in recruiting Samuel Sterling Sherman as the college’s first president, and Barron is credited with being at the head of the donors list. The Alabama Baptist, a newspaper she cofounded, credits her as being the first donor to the new school.
Learn more about Samford University’s centennial coeducation honorees.