(The late) Rev. Tyree Toliver Jr.​Rev. Tyree Toliver Jr.

Community and Religious leader

California State University, Bakersfield

For more than 50 years, the late Rev. Tyree Toliver championed the cause of equal access to education, employment, financial services and housing in southeast Bakersfield, one of California’s poorest communities. He was a highly respected community and religious leader, a pioneer of the 1960s anti-discrimination, anti-segregation and anti-poverty movements at a time when racial struggles, overt discrimination and de facto segregation were a part of Bakersfield. As pastor of St. John Missionary Baptist Church, the largest African-American congregation in Bakersfield, he brought together coalitions of African-American, Latino, East Indian and Native American community organizers and residents to effect civil and social change.

A staunch believer in excellence through education, Rev. Toliver led a grassroots effort in 1970 to establish a permanent library in southeast Bakersfield. The Holloway-Gonzales Library stands as a testament to his unwavering advocacy and leadership. Rev. Toliver led nonviolent marches against the discriminatory hiring practices of downtown Bakersfield retailers who refused to hire blacks, marching alongside Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in an historic local march. He established the St. John Federal Credit Union in 1974, Kern County’s first black-owned credit union. In 1983, he developed the St. John Manor Senior Housing Complex, HUD’s first housing development project with an African-American organization in Kern County.

The opening of California State University, Bakersfield in 1970 brought the promise of access to higher education to a community that had no university within a 100-mile radius. Rev. Toliver served two four-year terms on the President’s Advisory Board under two CSUB presidents, voicing the need for inclusion and diversity in university admissions. He earned a bachelor’s degree in theology from Conro College, and a master’s degree in Christian education and an honorary doctorate from St. John Theological Seminary. He served as pastor of St. John Missionary Baptist Church for 50 years until retiring in 2007. He passed away in June 2008.

In recognition of his distinguished leadership, his commitment to social justice and equal rights, and his service to California State University, Bakersfield, the Board of Trustees of the California State University and California State University, Bakersfield are proud to confer upon the late Rev. Tyree Toliver the honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters.