Professor Albert Wicker – Educator, Fraternalist, Civic Leader

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Professor Albert Wicker was born in New Orleans on 22 April 1869 (Volume 57-Page 181) to Albert Wicker and Frances L. Austin. His parents were free people of color prior to the Civil War. The Wickers resided on Customhouse Street (now Iberville Street) in the Fourth Ward, where his paternal uncles John and Benjamin Wicker also resided. Within the Fourth Ward of the city, he was reared alongside James Madison Vance, Jr., Walter L. Cohen, and Rene Calvin Metoyer, who would also become community leaders in the years following Reconstruction. His father, who was born in New Orleans in 1831, was a steward who worked on steamboat, as his paternal uncles. His father was also a barber during the Civil War, who advertised his trade in the newspaper L’Union. His father, who was also an active Republican and high-ranking Mason, died on 15 June 1879 (Volume 74-Page 1070). His mother, Frances L. Austin Wicker died on 2 November 1916 (Volume 167-Page 664). His paternal aunts and uncles were Rachel, William, Baptiste, John, and Benjamin Wicker. His maternal uncles were Henry and Alexander Austin. His maternal grandparents were William and Mary Ann Austin. His paternal grandparents were Daniel Wicker and Mary Baptist. His father’s father was a white overseer from Newberry County, South Carolina, while his grandmother was a woman of color from Louisiana (1850 Census, West Feliciana Parish). His mother was a native of Mobile, Alabama.

Professor Wicker obtained his education in the public schools of the city and at Straight University. He graduated from New Orleans University with a Bachelor of Arts degree, after which he studied the law, abandoning the same to pursue teaching. He was principal of the Robertson School for a time and served for twenty years as principal of the Bienville School. His only sibling, Miss Mary Maria Wicker, was also a school teacher for many years.

On 30 December 1908, Professor Wicker married Miss Mary Ella Brischo, the daughter of William James Brischo and Ella Tucker Brischo of Cincinnati, Ohio. She taught in the public schools prior to her marriage.

He was among the city’s leading colored civic leaders. In 1905, he was a member of the committee which arranged for the visit of President Theodore Roosevelt to the city. On 6 February 1907, he was among the twenty-seven men who chartered the Colored Young Men’s Christian Association of New Orleans (YMCA), which continues to the present day on Oretha Castle Haley Boulevard (in a beautiful modern building). In reporting on a large memorial donation made by his widow, The Louisiana Weekly of June 1, 1929 reported that the Colored YMCA was conceived of right within Professor Wicker’s home at 2430 Bienville Street, opposite the Saint James African Methodist Episcopal Church. He was a founding partner in 1909 of the People’s Industrial Life Insurance Company, which was founded by Walter L. Cohen. The organization included many leading colored Republicans. Professor Wicker was an active Mason, Elk, Odd Fellow, and member of the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity. He was a longtime congregant of the Saint James African Methodist Episcopal Church.

Professor Wicker died on 30 August 1928 at the age of fifty-nine years.  After his death, the Bienville School, which he had served so faithfully since its creation, was renamed in his honor by the Orleans Parish School Board. The Albert Wicker School stood at 2011 Bienville Street until Hurricane Katrina.

J.C.L.H.

3 thoughts on “Professor Albert Wicker – Educator, Fraternalist, Civic Leader

  1. This is very informative data. I’m almost 74 yrs. old, and my mother who transitioned just three yrs. ago at the age of 89 yrs. old, told me she went to Albert Wicker School. I really enjoyed reading this article. I have to thank my youngest daughter, who is 51 and a half years old for sending me the email connecting me to this, and other informative articles about our people of color.

  2. I attended Albert Wicker Elementary from fifth through seventh grade. But, the Albert Wicker I attended was located in the 1700 block of Bienville on the corner of Bienville and Derbigny. It was a two-story white, wood plank building. McDonough #37 elementary (1st-4th grades) was located at 2011 Bienville between Johnson & Prieur.

    The original Wicker was blown down by Hurricane Betsy in 1965. I was the Times-Picayune carrier at the time and remember seeing the severely damaged building. When McDonough 37 was replaced, it was named Albert Wicker.

  3. I’m 29 years old. I attended Albert Wicker from kindergarten to 5th grade … Ms Belonga was the prinicipal then from the early 90s. I loved it and learned a lot.

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