Savannah funeral home legacy gets historical marker

The marker gives historical context to the significance of the funeral home.
The marker gives historical context to the significance of the funeral home.(Ga. Historical Society)
Updated: May. 18, 2021 at 12:04 PM EDT
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SAVANNAH, Ga. (WALB) - The Georgia Historical Society (GHS) has announced the unveiling of a new historical marker in Chatham County commemorating Bynes-Royall Funeral Home, Inc. in Savannah.

The marker is located at the intersection of Barnard and West Hall streets in Savannah’s Historic Landmark District.

”The Bynes-Royall Funeral Home has provided funeral services for over 140 years in Savannah,” said GHS Marker Manager Elyse Butler. “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 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and W. W. Law, among others.

A 2019 street view of Bynes-Royal Funeral Home
A 2019 street view of Bynes-Royal Funeral Home(Google Maps)

Today, it is the oldest continuously Black-owned business in Savannah and remains under the ownership of Bynes descendants, according to GHS officials.

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 rich diversity of the state’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 reads as follows:

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, Cpt. 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

For more information about the historical marker or the Georgia Civil Rights Trail Marker Program, call (912) 651-2125, ext. 153 or email by clicking here.

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