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Matthew W. Bullock
Knight of Bahá’u’lláh
Born September 11, 1881 Dabney, North Carolina
Died December 17, 1972 (aged 91)
Matthew Washington Bullock (September 11, 1881 – December 17, 1972) was an American football player and coach, college professor and administrator, and lawyer. Played high school football at Everett High School in Everett, Massachusetts and was captain-coach in 1899, becoming presumably the first African-American to coach a predominantly white high school. He served as the head football coach at Massachusetts Agricultural College—now the University of Massachusetts Amherst—in 1904 (becoming presumably the first African-American to coach a predominantly white college) and again from 1907 to 1908, at Morehouse College from 1909 to 1911, and at Alabama Agricultural and Mechanical University from 1924 to 1926.
Bullock was born on September 11, 1881 to two former slaves. His family moved to Massachusetts, where he attended Everett High School. Bullock enrolled at Dartmouth College in 1900. At Dartmouth he played on the varsity football team for three years and ran track for four. After graduating from Dartmouth in 1904, Bullock attended Harvard Law School, from which he graduated in 1907. He taught economics and sociology at Morehouse and was a dean at Alabama A&M. Bullock practiced law in Atlanta and Boston. In 1927, Alvan T. Fuller, Governor of Massachusetts, appointed Bullock to the State Board of Parole and the Advisory Board of Pardons. In 1945, James Forrestal, United States Secretary of the Navy, appointed Bullock to a commission to study racial conditions among enlisted men in the Pacific Ocean theater of World War II. The commission's report initiated racial integration in the United States Navy.
Matthew Washington Bullock (September 11, 1881 – December 17, 1972) was an American Bahá'í who served on the National Spiritual Assembly of the United States and was named a Knight of Bahá’u’lláh for opening the Dutch West Indies to the Faith. He was also notable for his football career. In his professional life he worked as a college professor and administrator, and lawyer.
At the opening of WWI Bullock was not eligible for active service due to a heart condition and instead served as educational secretary of the Young Men's Christian Association at Camp Meade. In this role he was sent to France with the 369th Infantry as part of the American Expeditionary Forces and served on the front lines for fifteen months. He was recommended for the Croix de Guerre medal during his service, but denied the award due to prejudice on the part of his commanding officer.
After returning home Bullock settled in Boston and established himself in the fields of law and public services. He later taught economics and sociology at Morehouse and was a dean at Alabama A&M. In 1927, Alvan T. Fuller, Governor of Massachusetts, appointed Bullock to the State Board of Parole and the Advisory Board of Pardons, and by the 1940's he was serving as Chairman of the Massachusetts Parole Board, and in 1947 was elected to the National Probation Association Board. In 1945, James Forrestal, United States Secretary of the Navy, appointed Bullock to a commission to study racial conditions among enlisted men in the Pacific Ocean theater of World War II. The commission's report initiated racial integration in the United States Navy.
Service to the Faith
Bullock was introduced to the Bahá'í Faith at a dinner held for travel teacher Ludmila Ott Bechtold Van Sombeek which he attended due to serving as President of the Community Church of Boston. He asked questions at the dinner, read Some Answered Questions, and visited Green Acre School with his wife. He investigated for several years before declaring and becoming a Baháʼí in 1940.
He went on to be elected Chairman of the Local Spiritual Assembly of Boston, and was an active travel teacher after declaring, visiting Haiti, Costa Rica, and Mexico. In 1947 he presented ‘A Baha'i Declaration of Human Obligations and Rights' to the first session of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights.
In 1952 he was elected to the National Spiritual Assembly of the United States. In 1953 he was asked to attend the Intercontinental Baha’i Conference in Uganda and was also given permission to go on Pilgrimage to the Holy Land prior. While on Pilgrimage he met Shoghi Effendi. Describing this meeting, he said ‘My visit to him and to the Holy Shrines are experiences beyond words. I don’t think I will ever be able to express what it meant to me…I wish every Baha’i could have the bounty which has been mine.’ After the Conference he traveled through the Belgian Congo and visited Liberia where he met with the President and American Ambassador who he spoke to about the Faith.
At the 1953 U.S. National Convention Bullock announced he was retiring from the National Spiritual Assembly in order to pioneer and he moved to Curacao in the Dutch West Indies that year. He was designated by Shoghi Effendi as a Knight of Bahá'u'lláh for helping to open the Dutch West Indies to the Faith.
Matthew remained at his pioneer post until 1960 when he returned to the United States due to age related concerns, settling in Boston. In 1967 he moved to Detroit to be near his daughter and he eventually moved to a nursing home there. Harvard University granted him an honorary degree in 1970 and in 1971 Dartmouth College granted him an honorary Doctor of Laws and he spoke at the 1971 commencement program for the College.
He passed away in 1972. The Universal House of Justice conveyed the following message following his passing:
GRIEVED PASSING KNIGHT BAHAULLAH MATTHEW BULLOCK DISTINGUISHED PROMOTER FAITH CONVEY FAMILY ASSURANCE PRAYERS HOLY THRESHOLD PROGRESS HIS SOUL ADVISE HOLD MEMORIAL GATHERING MASHRIQUL ADHKAR
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