Wendell Holmes Jr., was born in Brunswick, Georgia in 1922, and graduated from Risley High School. While growing up, he helped his parents: his mother was a teacher and his father was the funeral director of their business. After graduating, he went off to Hampton Institute in Virginia, continuing his life as an honor student and a musician. He married his campus sweetheart who was from Jacksonville and in 1945, they had their first child. He was a second lieutenant in the U. S. Army, joined his family in Jacksonville after World War II while still working with his father in Brunswick. He later started Wendell Holmes Funeral Home in Jacksonville. But that was not enough for this man of energy who felt that we as a people did not have social justice.
Dr. Holmes was so determined for his children to have equal rights, he broke the racial barrier and became the first Black member of the Duval County School Board with a strong belief that our children were not getting the same quality education as white children and therefore made it his mission to bring quality education to Duval County.
Wendell Holmes worked endlessly for quality education for Black Americans and became chairman of the Board of Hampton University and Bethune-Cookman University. Bethune-Cookman honored him with an Honorary Doctorate of Law Degree and later dedicated the Business Building that was built in 1998 to him, naming it the Wendell P. Holmes Jr. Business Building. Later the new men’s dormitory building at Hampton was named after him, stating that Dr. Holmes loyalty and support to the University was boundless.
Dr. Holmes was a totally committed person to his community, educationally and socially. His two children, and grandchildren are graduates of Hampton and he continued to recruit for Hampton, BCU and other Historically Black Colleges and Universities.
Dr. Wendell P. Holmes, Jr., a true role model that was connected to the community through his business, his fraternities, social clubs, his religious organizations and his family. Jacksonville, Florida is truly blessed to have had Dr. Wendell P. Holmes, Jr. as a member of this community. He will be missed.