University Remembers Former Educator, Civil Rights Pioneer

Carrie Gentry, right, with her son, Howard Gentry, Jr., was a pioneer in the nonviolent civil rights movement in Nashville. Courtesy Photo

NASHVILLE, TN (TSU News Service) — Carrie Gentry, a civil rights activist and TSU educator, died Saturday. She was 95. Gentry, mother of TSU alum and Nashville Criminal Court Clerk Howard Gentry, Jr., was married to the late TSU athletic director Howard Gentry, Sr., after whom the Gentry Center is named.

She came to then-Tennessee A&I College in 1949 with her husband, and taught rhythmic and modern dance at the university. Later, along with friend Inez Crutchfield, an assistant professor of health education at TSU (1949-1985), Carrie Gentry became influential in the effort to desegregate Nashville, aiding student protestors during the nonviolent civil rights movement.

“I really feel humbled today standing among so many worthy people, and you my friend, Inez,” Gentry said in 2014, as she, Crutchfield and legendary track and field coach Ed. Temple were being honored for their contributions to the city, at the 10th Annual James “Tex” Thomas Humanitarian Prayer Breakfast.

“As I stand here today, I think about all the people that helped me move along the way. I want to thank everyone for the honor and praise. It is a tribute to my family who helped me succeed.”

Pioneers in the civil rights movement in Nashville during the 1960s, Gentry and Crutchfield became involved in the League for Women Voters, and were the first AfricanAmerican members of the Davidson County Democratic Party’s Women’s Club. The two would later become presidents of the group – Crutchfield in 1975, and Gentry in 1978.

A longtime member of First Baptist Church until her passing, Carrie and her husband Howard reportedly transported students from TSU to her pastor, first to be trained in nonviolent tactics in the church basement and then to participate in the sit-in protests in downtown Nashville.

Carry Gentry was born in Georgia as one of 14 children. She lost her parents at an early age and was raised by her siblings and moved to Boston. She attended Howard University, where she majored in health physical education and dance.

At TSU, Gentry also served as the director of the majorettes. Like her husband, Howard Gentry, Sr., she is also in the school’s Sports Hall of Fame.