SAVANNAH — The Georgia Historical Society recently announced the unveiling of a new historical marker in Chatham County commemorating Bynes-Royall Funeral Home Inc. in Savannah.
“The Bynes-Royall Funeral Home has provided funeral services for over 140 years in Savannah,” GHS Marker Manager Elyse Butler said. “This new historical marker, along with the Louis B. Toomer: Founder of Carver State Bank and The McKelvey-Powell Building markers, highlights the importance of the West Broad Street (now Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard) role as the historical business and cultural epicenter for Savannah’s black community.”
Maj. William Royall opened the Royall Undertaking Company following the 1876 yellow fever epidemic. His work transformed the funeral business in Georgia by training black morticians to work in the industry. In 1955, Frank and Frenchye Bynes purchased the business that would later play a role in the civil rights movement as the site of meetings with civil rights icons like Martin Luther King Jr. and W.W. Law, among others. Today it is the oldest continuously black-owned business in Savannah and remains under the ownership of Bynes descendants.
In his remarks, Savannah Mayor Van R. Johnson II said, “Today we honor history — Georgia’s history, Savannah history, black history. We honor resiliency and the perseverance of a family. We honor service to God, to the community, and to citizens during the toughest moments in their lives. We honor the Bynes family and the generations past, present and future.”
In addition to Johnson, speakers for the dedication included Olga M. Williams, a fifth-generation Bynes Entrepreneur; Megan M. Wilkerson, chief of the Department of Energy and Environment and a fifth-generation Bynes; Frenchye Bynes-Jones, co-owner of Bynes-Royall Funeral Inc. and a fourth-generation Bynes; and Elyse Butler, historical marker manager at the Georgia Historical Society.
The Georgia Civil Rights Trail Initiative was established in 2015 as part of the ongoing work of the Georgia Historical Marker Program to recognize the diversity of Georgia’s past and focuses broadly on the economic, social, political, and cultural history of the civil rights movement. This is the newest marker on the trail.
The marker is located at the intersection of Barnard and West Hall Streets in Savannah’s Historic Landmark District. For further information about the Bynes-Royall Funeral Home Inc. historical marker or the Georgia Civil Rights Trail marker program, contact Patricia Meagher, GHS director of communications at (912) 651-2125, extension 153 or by email at email@example.com.
The marker reads:
Bynes-Royall Funeral Home
During the last years of Reconstruction, Maj. William Royall established the Royall Undertaking Company to serve African Americans denied mortuary services by Savannah’s white-owned funeral homes. As a formal mortuary education was not available in the South until the early 20th century, Royall’s company trained many prominent black funeral directors in the state through an apprenticeship program. In 1924, the company moved to West Broad Street, now Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, the African-American cultural and business district of Savannah. In 1955, Capt. Frank Bynes Sr. and Frenchye Mason Bynes bought the business and renamed it the Bynes-Royall Funeral Home. Like many black funeral homes during the civil rights movement, Bynes-Royall provided a safe space to meet and organize. Bynes-Royall relocated here in 1963 and remains the oldest black-owned business in Savannah.
Erected by the Georgia Historical Society and Save Our Youth Savannah