Ohio Historical Marker dedicated to former slave turned Catholic, journalist

A crowd gathered outside St. Raphael Catholic Church in Springfield takes pictures of a Historic Marker that was unveiled for Daniel Rudd Sunday afternoon. Rudd, who lived in Springfield for most of his life in the late 19th and early 20th century, was an African American Catholic, a newspaper publisher and an early civil rights leader. BILL LACKEY/STAFF

Credit: Bill Lackey

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A crowd gathered outside St. Raphael Catholic Church in Springfield takes pictures of a Historic Marker that was unveiled for Daniel Rudd Sunday afternoon. Rudd, who lived in Springfield for most of his life in the late 19th and early 20th century, was an African American Catholic, a newspaper publisher and an early civil rights leader. BILL LACKEY/STAFF

Credit: Bill Lackey

Credit: Bill Lackey

A name from Springfield’s past will live on and gain new appreciation through an Ohio Historical Marker dedicated on Sunday.

Daniel Rudd, a former slave who moved to Springfield after the Civil War and raised in Catholicism as a member of St. Raphael Church, was honored with the marker outside St. Raphael’s.

Several people withstood wind chills to recognize the occasion and Rudd during the early afternoon ceremony at the side of St. Raphael on High Street.

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Cousins Jerry Harris and Cheyenne Northington were right in front for the ceremony with their children. Both are longtime St. Raphael members, with Harris saying his grandmother joined the church in 1901. He liked that it recognizes Black Catholics.

“It’s very special, an honor,” said Northington. “I hope people will go by (the marker) and learn from it and maybe bring more Catholics home.”

Several guest speakers talked about Rudd and the significance of the marker. Delores Banks of Springfield called him an inspiration and for others to follow his example.

“He was a treasure to the state, the church and the country,” she said.

Rudd was a Roman Catholic Church advocate and established his own newspaper, and enabled Black journalists and newspapers to get started.

He liked the racial equality the church offered, and in 1885 would establish The Ohio State Tribute — later The American Catholic Tribune — upon moving to Cincinnati. The Tribune was the only Catholic newspaper owned by a Black man at the time, and helped chair the Afro-American Press Association.

Rudd led Black Catholics to advocate for racial issues, and would help a national movement that would work with prominent politicians including President Grover Cleveland and continued to fight segregation and inequality until his death in 1933, and the legacy he helped build continues today as the National Black Catholic Congress.

Springfield Mayor Warren Copeland taught classes about racism at Wittenberg University and said he had surprisingly not heard of Rudd prior to the awarding of the marker. Now he hopes the city’s people will not miss the name and learn from his life.

Laura Russell of the Ohio History Connection, which handles requests for Historical Markers, said they receive about 80 applications a year and this is one of the few granted. There are now nine such markers in Springfield.

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Dr. Gary Agee, a professor of church history said Rudd’s are big shoes to fill but now it’s time for people to go out and follow his example.

The marker was unveiled by members of the St. Raphael Diversity Community and reads “Daniel Rudd: Journalist of Faith and Action” with biographical details of his life.

Father John MacQuarrie, pastor of St. Raphael said in his closing prayers Rudd’s spirit was present.

“He knows about this day and we can believe that,” he said.

The marker can be viewed in the side yard next to the left side of St. Raphael, which is located at 225 E. High St.

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