LEMUEL ARTHUR BOWMAN (1887-1965)
Lemuel Arthur Bowman was born in Bowman, South
Carolina, on July 24, 1887, to Vastine and Eliza (Richardson)
Bowman. He received his early education in the public
schools of Bowman. He came to Nashville and entered
Walden University. In 1908, he entered Walden's
Meharry Medical Department's School of Dentistry. In 1912,
he was graduated from Meharry's School of Dentistry with
the Doctorate of Dental Science degree. Subsequent to his
graduation, Dr. Bowman pursued his career as a dentist.
By the late 1920s, Dr. Bowman had established seven business enterprises. Four of his business adventures failed. Later, he established other successful ventures in Nashville that provided employment opportunities for more than 150 persons. These businesses became very profitable and a source of pride for the prosperous entrepreneur. Dr. Bowman applied his acquired knowledge of the financial business and made discerning, wise, and profitable investments in the East. Bowman retired from his dental practice with the intention to move into the private sphere, content to live on the income from his remunerative financial investments.
Soon after his retirement, Dr. Bowman was called upon by the secretary of the Sunday School Publishing Board of the National Baptist Convention, U.S.A., Incorporated. A race-conscious man, Bowman rarely refused to assist his people in developing stronger business practices and economic growth. In the fall of 1932, Bowman accepted the position of treasurer of the Sunday School Publishing Board. He devoted himself to the task and to the goal of the publishing board's administrators to make the organization one of the largest and financially strongest African-American businesses in the world. In his position as treasurer, he skillfully supervised and mastered the economic management of the corporation. Through his contacts with business leaders throughout the country, he helped the Sunday School Publishing Board achieve sound financial footing. While guiding the Sunday School Publishing Board's fiscal affairs, Bowman managed the finances of approximately twelve other smaller African-American business establishments. A recognized expert in money matters among white bankers of Nashville and eastern capitalists, Bowman was known as the "Rockefeller" of the city's African-American community.
Dr. L. A. Bowman also served as treasurer of the denomination's Finance Commission. He was a member of the National Bath House Commission and a member of the American Baptist Theological Seminary Board of Trustees. In addition to serving the National Baptist Convention, U.S.A., Inc., in various capacities, Bowman rendered his time and service to Spruce Street Baptist Church, where he directed the church's business affairs as chairman of its board of trustees. He, along with Dr. A. M. Townsend, led the congregation as it made plans to relocate to its present site at the corner of Twentieth Avenue, North, and Pearl Street.
Dr. Bowman was a member of numerous professional, civic, and social organizations, including the Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity and the Nashville Chamber of Commerce. A life member of the National Baptist Convention, U.S.A., Inc., Bowman was one of the few lay persons ever honored for his work in the denomination's convention. At age seventy-seven, the life of Dr. Lemuel Arthur Bowman, dentist, financier, and churchman came to a close on Friday, March 26, 1965. The service of triumph was held four days later at Spruce Street Baptist Church. The remains of the preeminent financier of the National Baptist Convention, U.S.A., Inc., and chairman of the Board of Trustees of Spruce Street Baptist Church, were interred in the Bowman Family Mausoleum in Nashville's Greenwood Cemetery. He was survived by his third wife, Leora (Watkins) Bowman (now deceased), son L. A. Bowman, Jr., grandson Louis Alphonso Bowman, and two brothers and three sisters.