BUSH (FAMOUS), JOHN EDWARD - Pulaski County, Arkansas | JOHN EDWARD BUSH (FAMOUS) - Arkansas Gravestone Photos

John Edward BUSH (FAMOUS)

Fraternal (African American) (now Oakland-Fraternal) Cemetery
Pulaski County,

14 November 1856 – 11 December 1916

Teacher Co Founder of the Mosaic Templars of America (MTA)

John Edward Bush was born a slave, in Moscow, Tennessee. He, his mother, Mary E. Cobb, and sister were brought to Little Rock, Arkansas in 1862. John was orphaned in 1863 and left to fend for himself. He survived by doing odd jobs such as running errands, watering stock, or washing dishes. Through the influence of Colonel R. C. Lacy, John began to attend school and ultimately graduated with honors from the Capital Hill City School of Little Rock in 1876. He financed his education by working during the summer months as a molder in a brickyard and, later, worked as a postal clerk for the Railway Mail Service. Immediately following graduation he served as the principal of Capital Hill City School for two years. In 1879 John married Cora Winfrey and they had seven children, only four of whom lived to maturity. In 1882, he and Chester W. Keatts, another former slave, co-founded the Mosaic Templars of America (MTA), an African American fraternal organization that was incorporated in 1883. MTA offered illness, death and burial insurance, and other services to African-Americans at a time when such were not available to them. MTA became one of the largest and most successful black-owned business enterprises in the nation and the world. It included an insurance company, a building and loan association, a hospital, a business college, a publishing house, and a nursing school. One of the most prominent, dues paying members of MTA was the esteemed African-American leader, Booker T. Washington. Mr. Washington and John became fast friends and the two of them supported each other’s business endeavors. John served as an executive committee member of Mr. Washington’s National Negro Business League. The MTA headquarters in Little Rock was dedicated by Mr. Washington in 1913. The success of the MTA is viewed as being due in large measure to John’s reputed ability to judge character, a man who could be both stern and kind. In addition he surrounded himself with talented people who served as officers of the organization, including his sons Chester and Aldridge, lawyer Scipio Jones, educator Joseph Carter Corbin, and educator and publisher J. H. McConico. John was acknowledged as one of the wealthiest African-American men in Arkansas and a progenitor of the economic development and progress of African-American entrepreneurs. He became chairman of the Republican Party in Arkansas. President William McKinley appointed Bush as the receiver of the U.S. Land Office at Little Rock in 1898. He was subsequently reappointed for four additional terms by Presidents Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft.

[This Mausoleum was erected by the Mosaic Templars of America]

References Consulted:
Clement Richardson, 1919. The National Cyclopedia of the Colored Race. [originally published by the National Publishing Co., Montgomery, AL; available online at

Ashan Hampton’s biography of John Edward Bush [http://encyclopediaofarkansas.net/]

Biography contributed by Thomas J. Helms
Cell phone tour 501-708-0011
Stop # 44

Contributed on 8/13/08 by debbraszymanski
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Record #: 43162

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Submitted: 8/13/08 • Approved: 5/13/14 • Last Updated: 5/16/14 • R43162-G0-S3

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