Holly Knoll at Cappahosic is the Georgian style retirement home of the late Dr. Robert Russa Moton. Dr. Moton was one of the most influential African American leaders of the 1920s and 30s. He served as the second President of the Tuskegee Institute. He advised five US Presidents. In 1935, he retired to Holly Knoll, the elegant manor house which overlooks the York River. Like its first owner, Holly Knoll stands dignified and gracious—stately and welcoming. Holly Knoll is listed on both the Virginia and the National Historic registries. But even this prestigious recognition cannot begin to attest to the great historical significance of Holly Knoll to the African American community. From 1935 until Dr. Moton’s death in 1940, Holly Knoll welcomed leaders of the African American political, intellectual, and entertainment community. Guests would be summoned, “Come to Cappahosic.” At Holly Knoll, any idea offered with the sincere mission of improving the lives of African Americans would be considered. Dr. Moton’s son-in-law Dr. Frederick Patterson succeeded him as the third President of Tuskegee Institute. Dr. Patterson established the Moton Conference Center to continue Dr. Moton’s work in
education. Under Dr. Patterson, Holly Knoll was expanded into a full conference center by adding residential space and training facilities. During the 1950s and 60s, plans were made for the economic development of historically black colleges and universities. From such plans the United Negro College Fund was founded by Dr. Patterson. As strategies were planned for desegregation of lunch counters, Dr.
Martin Luther King, Jr. and other great African American leaders retreated at Holly Knoll.
When Dr. Robert Russa Moton died, his accomplishments were great. Unfortunately, Dr. Moton has become one of the unsung heroes of the African American community. In the eight decades since his death, Dr. Moton’s name may be forgotten, but his legacy of faith and ideas lives on through the work of The Gloucester Institute.
Charles and Kay James purchased Holly Knoll in 2005, with the vision to completely restore the campus and use it to educate the next generation of leaders. Holly Knoll’s significance is manifested in its ties to the civil rights movement and its notoriety as a gathering place for problem solvers of the time. Holly Knoll has served as an intellectual and cultural hub for African American leaders, providing a venue for them to engage in debates surrounding issues central to the black community. As president of the Gloucester Institute, Mrs. James spent a year developing a strategic plan and pilot programs to rekindle Holly Knoll’s significance for today’s challenges. The Gloucester Institute (TGI) was officially launched when it received tax-exempt status in 2007. Today, three programs are fully operational—–the Emerging Leaders Program, the Moton Forum, and Moton Fellows Program. Over the last few years, these programs have touched hundreds of African American students, providing them with the skills, knowledge, and intellectual foundation required to succeed in the corporate, government, and academic realms. Our students are graduates of our country’s top Ivy League schools, working in non-profits, and serving in leadership roles in the government, academic, and corporate spheres. Holly Knoll continues to be the seat of social change in the black community.