Fourth bishop of the Colored (Christian) Methodist Episcopal Church, Isaac Lane was born March 4, 1834, in Madison County. Lane grew to manhood as a slave on the plantation of Cullen Lane. At age nineteen Isaac Lane married Frances Ann Boyce, an eighteen-year-old slave woman from neighboring Haywood County. The couple were the parents of twelve children, who became ministers, educators, and physicians.
In 1870, during the chaos of Emancipation and Reconstruction, freedmen established the CME Church, and Isaac Lane quickly rose to prominence among the clergy of the fledgling congregations. In 1872 Lane was elected a bishop of the church and assigned to the Tennessee area.
In 1882 Lane founded a CME school in Jackson to provide education for freedmen. Bishop Lane's daughter, Jennie Lane, became the first teacher and principal of the new school. When the school applied for college status, Lane chose a white Methodist minister, Thomas F. Saunders, to serve as the first president. His choice reflected the racial reality of the period and allowed the new college to establish a stronger position in the Jackson community. In 1907 Bishop Lane's son, James Franklin Lane, completed his Ph.D. and became the president of Lane College. His distinguished service to the college continued for the next thirty-seven years. During his tenure Lane College lived up to the belief of Bishop Lane that education must keep pace with the changing times and needs of the people.
During World War II, in recognition of the contributions of Bishop Lane to the field of education, the United States named a Merchant Marine Victory ship in his honor. The USS Lane, based in San Diego, is the only WWII Victory ship still in service. It remains a fitting tribute to this great man of color, this ex-slave who touched the lives of so many men and women who matriculated at Lane College.
Bishop Lane died in 1936, at the age of 102, a centenarian who had dedicated his life to the education of both the soul and the mind of African American youth as they rose, phoenix-like, from the fiery ashes of slavery.