Jane Aileen Gordon Floyd

Jane Floyd was born in St. Louis but spent summers at the Selma, Ohio, farm of her maternal grandparents, John Penn and Barbara Ann Woodson.  She first learned of her lineage when she shared her elopement plans with her mother, Jane Ann Woodson Gordon (1890–1972).  “That’s how she happened to tell me about being descended from Thomas Jefferson.” 

Mrs. Floyd studied at Stowe Teacher’s College and the University of Southern California, among many other institutions, and worked as a teacher.  She married Samuel Kaiser and had two sons, Arthur and James.  When Arthur was denied admission to an all-white Catholic school in 1943, Mrs. Floyd fought to desegregate Catholic schools in St. Louis.  Two years later, “they opened them up,” she recalled.  Both of her sons became successful businessmen.  James Kaiser is a founder of the Black Executive Leadership Council.

Robert H. Cooley III

Robert Cooley, attorney, judge, and magistrate, was the son of Ruth Golden and Robert H. Cooley II.  He graduated from Virginia Union University and Howard University Law School.  He spent eight years as an attorney in the U. S. Army, being awarded the Army Commendation Medal.  Of his army service in Europe he said, “ I was free…I was not a black person.  I was an American.”

His appointment as a federal magistrate for the Eastern District in 1976 made him, as he said, “the first black American to serve as a judge on the Federal District Court in Virginia’s history.”  Cooley greatly admired his ancestor Lewis Woodson (“my hero”) and passed on the Woodson family’s emphasis on education to his children, who graduated from Thomas Jefferson’s University of Virginia, to which Cooley was denied admission because of his race. 

Sarah Woodson Early

Sarah Woodson, the youngest child of Thomas and Jemima Woodson, exemplified her family’s commitment to the fields of education and religion. By the age of five, she had memorized large parts of the Bible. She graduated from Oberlin College in 1856 and then began her long career as a teacher in Ohio, North Carolina, and Tennessee. She was one of the first African American women on a college faculty, at Wilberforce University, of which her brother Lewis Woodson was a founding trustee. 

In 1868 she married Jordan Winston Early, a minister in the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) church and, as she wrote, assisted “in all of his most arduous duties.” She was national superintendent of the Colored Division of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union and lectured widely on temperance, self-improvement, and the role of women.  In 1894 she published a biography of her husband.