Announcing FVSU Street Names
As we celebrate FVSU’s profound contributions to American history, we are pleased to announce new recognition for some of our many significant alumni and historical figures. Upon FVSU’s recommendation, the University System of Georgia has authorized the naming of streets on our campus to cement their place in history.
You are invited to join Dr. Paul Jones and family members of the honorees prior to Black History Month Convocation on Tuesday, February 20, 2018, as street signs are unveiled honoring these great Wildcats who helped shape America.
- 9: 20 a.m.: John Wesley Davison Court (off State University Drive between Carnegie and Huntington Halls)
- 9:30 a.m.: Horace E. Tate Lane (off State University Drive between Huntington Hall and the Agricultural Communications Center)
- 9:40 a.m.: Austin Thomas Walden Drive (off State University Drive between Troup Hall and Pettigrew Center)
- 9:50 a.m.: Otis S. O’Neal Drive (inside campus in front of Pettigrew Center)
- 10:00 a.m.: Catherine Hardy Lavender Way (off Ira Hicks Blvd. near Health and Physical Education Center)
- 10:10 a.m.: William Alexander Way (off Carver Drive opposite Agriculture Drive near Wildcat Stadium)
- 10:20 a.m.: Jo Ann Robinson Drive
About the honorees:
William Alexander, Class of 1951, was a Fulton County, GA Superior Court judge, state legislator, and civil rights attorney who successfully challenged segregation and discrimination. Born in Macon, Georgia, he graduated from Fort Valley State College in 1954. He became a civil rights icon as the lead attorney in a case forcing the desegregation of a restaurant owned by segregationist Georgia governor Lester Maddox, paving the way for desegregation across the state. Alexander was among the first African-Americans elected to the Georgia Legislature after the passage of the Voting Rights Act, representing Atlanta from 1966-1975. After serving in the legislature, he became a Fulton County State Court judge and then a Fulton County Superior Court judge.
Born into slavery in Crawford County, GA, John Wesley Davison led a group of 15 former slaves and free-born blacks and three white men in petitioning the Superior Court of Houston County to create a public school to educate blacks, which became Fort Valley High and Industrial School. Today we are Fort Valley State University. Davison became principal and he and his wife became the first teachers at the school. After initially operating inside a local lodge, Davison eventually organized the local citizens to raise enough money to construct the school’s first building on four acres of land.
Catherine Hardy Lavender, Class of 1952, set an American record for the women’s 50-yard dash and then went on to win a gold medal as anchor of the 400-meter women’s relay racing team at the 1952 Summer Olympic Games in Finland. She was the only representative of the state of Georgia that year in the Olympics.
As the Negro County Agent for Houston and Peach County, Otis Samuel O’ Neal, Class of 1908, brought international recognition to Fort Valley State University and the state of Georgia through the creation of the “Ham and Egg Show” in 1916. The Ham and Egg Show drew thousands over the next few decades, initially to participate in displays of agricultural excellence in the production and cultivation of meat, and eventually to participate in agriculture education, youth development activities, oratorical contests, plays, musical performances, and the first African-American Folk Music Festival in the United States, now archived by the Smithsonian Institution.
Jo Ann Gibson Robinson, Class of 1947, was president of the Women’s Political Council (WPC) in Montgomery, AL in the 1950s. She led the WPC in envisioning and advocating for a boycott of the buses in Montgomery, which they organized during the weekend following Rosa Parks’s arrest on December 1, 1955. Gibson and others distributed more than 50,000 flyers appealing for blacks to boycott the buses the following Monday. The empty buses that day convinced the city’s African-American leaders to continue the protest, and they formed the Montgomery Improvement Association to organize an extended boycott, appointing Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as president and Gibson to serve on the executive board. The boycott lasted 381 days and set the stage for the Civil Rights Movement, the passage of the Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act.
Horace E. Tate, Class of 1943, will be forever associated with many firsts, including being the first African American to run for mayor of Atlanta, GA in a general election and the first African American to earn a Ph.D. from the University of Kentucky. He was also the first African-American chief executive of the newly integrated Georgia Association of Educators, the state teachers union, and helped bring an end to segregated classrooms in the state.
Austin Thomas Walden, Class of 1902, was one of Fort Valley High and Industrial School’s first graduates. He was the first African-American judge in Georgia after Reconstruction. His trailblazing legal and civil rights career included leadership in achieving pay equity for black teachers, allowing African-Americans to vote in party primaries, desegregating public buses and schools, and the founding of both the Gate City Bar Association and Atlanta Negro Voters League.