28 Facts: FVSU IS Black History

Fact #16: Founder John W. Davison brought multi-disciplinary education to African Americans in Middle Georgia

Jan. 31, 2018

Davison

You may already know that John W. Davison was the principal founder of Fort Valley High and Industrial School, but what you may not know is that he fought to provide blacks in the South with a multi-disciplinary education even as the school’s financiers insisted that they should only be taught industrial education focused on trade skills.

Davison’s efforts to make the first years of the school’s existence possible were nothing short of heroic. Before the school even opened, he donated his earnings from teaching night school to a fund to erect the school’s first building. He served as principal even while he and his wife were the only teachers for 100 students. He galvanized the local community members to contribute from their modest personal funds to support the effort, and of course, he led the 17 other founders, including former slaves, free-born blacks, and white men, in officially founding the school.

Yet, it takes more than a dream to operate a school, which had almost 600 students enrolled just a few years after opening. He needed help–and reached out to prominent philanthropists in the North. They provided crucial financial support, but not without conditions. At the turn of the twentieth century, training blacks to only work with their hands was more palatable to the many of the powers that be than was the additional focus on liberal arts study, which included literature and language studies, mathematics, history, and science. Though Davison conceded to revise the curriculum to put more emphasis on vocational education, which is important in its own right, he never abandoned his efforts to instruct his students in advanced intellectual pursuits.

Davison’s efforts introduced many blacks for the first time to reading, math, and science, and helped set the stage for students like Austin Thomas Walden to go forward and become a powerful lawyers and Georgia’s first black judge since Reconstruction.

Learn more here.

Fact #15: Jo Ann Robinson, ’47, was the pivotal originator of the Montgomery Bus Boycott

Jo Ann Robinson

Jo Ann Robinson was born to farmers near Colloden, GA. Her high school’s valedictorian, she graduated from Fort Valley State College in 1947 and earned a master’s degree from Atlanta University. After teaching in Macon and Texas, she became a faculty member at Alabama State College in Montgomery, AL. She was an active member of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church and Women’s Political Council (WPC), of which she became president.

Robinson led the WPC in advocating for a boycott of the buses in Montgomery after being verbally attacked by a white bus driver. After Rosa Parks’s arrest on December 1, 1955 , she and her students created and 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 boycott, and the rest is history. The leaders formed the Montgomery Improvement Association to organize an extended boycott, appointing Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as president. Robinson served on its executive board and edited its newsletter. 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, and an end to segregation and legal discrimination.

Robinson would go on to become a faculty member at Grambling State University and a Los Angeles teacher.

Additional information:

Listen: NPR’s Michel Martin discuss Jo Ann Robinson’s role in the Montgomery Bus Boycott here.
Read: More about Jo Ann Robinson through Stanford University here.
Read: Letter from Women’s Political Council to mayor of Montgomery, AL threatening a boycott here.
Read: Excerpt from “The Montgomery Bus Boycott and the Women Who Started It,” by Jo Ann Robinson here.
Watch: Jo Ann Robinson discuss the boycott and her place in history here.
Interact: Comment on the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture’s Facebook post recognizing Jo Ann Robinson here.

Fact #14: William Alexander, ’54, forced desegregation of restaurants in Georgia

William Alexander

William H. Alexander 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. After serving in the Korean War, he earned a juris doctorate (J.D.) law degree from the University of Michigan and and a master of laws (L.L.M.) degree from Georgetown University.

He became a civil rights icon as the lead attorney in a case forcing the desegregation of the Pickrick restaurant owned by segregationist Georgia governor Lester Maddox. Other lawyers on his team included legal legends such as Constance Baker Motley and Burke Marshall. That victory set the precedent for the desegregation of all restaurants in 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. He was known to tackle complex issues. After serving in the legislature, he served as a judge for 20 years, first as a Fulton County State Court judge and then as a Fulton County Superior Court judge until his retirement in 1996.

Read: U.S. District Court ruling in the Willis vs. Pickrick Restaurant case here.

 

Fact #13: Otis S. O’Neal brought international attention to FVSU

Otis Samuel O’Neal graduated from Fort Valley High and Industrial School in 1908. As the Negro County Agent for Houston and Peach County, Otis S. O’ Neal 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, 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, and musical performances. It was the first time many African-Americans could proudly showcase their achievements in farm production.

The addition of the Folk Music Festival, believed by the Library of Congress to possibly be the first African-American folk festival in the country, attracted notables such as W.C. Handy and other nationally renowned folk artists. The Ham and Egg Show was featured in Life magazine and on CBS radio and spanned duplicative efforts in Alabama, Arkansas, North Carolina, and Lowndes County, GA, where it is still produced each February.

O’Neal also taught local farmers how to diversify their crops beyond cotton, and helped farmers acquire land. He became a professor at Fort Valley State College and received the Superior Service Award for Distinguished Service in Agriculture from the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture in 1949. He is a member of the National 4H Hall of Fame.

Tate

Fact #12: Alumnus Dr. Horace Tate transformed education and politics in Georgia

It’s easy to forget that there was a time in Georgia when teaching blacks to read was prohibited by law and punishable with the most violent treatment. Education, the slave master’s knew, was a ticket to freedom. In the decades after slavery ended, segregation was used to provide blacks with inferior resources. Enter Horace E. Tate.

After graduating from Fort Valley State University in 1943, Tate became principal of a Union Point, Georgia school at the age of 20. He was the only person who worked at the school to have a college degree. He then became principal of a school in Greensboro, GA. The learning conditions at the school overwhelmed him. Five hundred students were crammed into 4 classrooms. Many of the books were unusable. Black students from Greene County did not have bus transportation to school like the white students did. Tate was determined to change these inequities.

He organized the local black citizens to demand taxpayer funds to provide equal educational opportunities. After death threats and employment risks, Tate and the citizens succeeded in receiving the additional resources the students needed. Later in his life, when Georgia refused to allow blacks into state doctoral programs, he became the first African American to earn a Ph.D. from the University of Kentucky.

Tate would go on to achieve plenty of other firsts, including becoming the first African American to run for mayor of Atlanta, GA. He was also the first executive director of the Georgia Association of Educators, Georgia’s teacher’s union, and before that, executive secretary (chief executive) of the newly integrated Georgia Teachers and Education Association. There, he established a legacy of joining black teachers with white teachers to ensure that every Georgia student had access to quality education and resources, no matter the color of the student or the teacher.

Tate was elected to serve in the Georgia State Senate in 1974, where he served for 16 years as a key legislator in advancing educational opportunity and protecting voting rights. His daughter, Dr. Horacena Tate, now holds that senate seat.

In 2000, the Georgia State Legislature designated U.S. Interstate 75 north of Atlanta, between Interstates 85 and 285, as the Horace E. Tate Freeway.

Learn more about Dr. Horace E. Tate from the University of Kentucky.

Lloyd

Fact #11: Alumnus and Former Pittsburgh Steeler Greg Lloyd is Now a Black College Hall of Famer

Alumnus Greg Lloyd, 1987, Pittsburgh Steeler #95, revolutionized the way the Pittsburgh Steelers utilized the position of outside linebacker, striking fear in the hearts of quarterbacks and offensive lines. With 54 sacks, he was named to five Pro-Bowls and was named Defensive Player of the Year in 1994. He is a two-time MVP for the Steelers, and was named to their “All-time Team,” featuring the top 33 players in the franchise’s history.

Lloyd grew up in Fort Valley, GA, growing up as the youngest of nine children. At FVSU, he was a three time SIAC defensive MVP and SIAC player of the year as a senior. As a player, winning was everything, and that meant excellence on the field and a toughness no one could match. When he ran out on the field as a Steeler, he often wore a shirt under his uniform that read, “I wasn’t hired for my disposition.”

Lloyd will be induced into the Black College Hall of Fame at a ceremony on February 10, 2018 in Atlanta.

Learn more about Greg Lloyd at NFL.com.

J Phelps

Fact #10: Alumnus Josiah Phelps, 1949, blazed trails to the Georgia Agricultural Education Hall of Fame

Josiah Phelps, 1949, was the first minority to be president of the Future Farmers of America National Alumni Association. His work had a profound impact on young African-Americans who were aspiring to make careers in agriculture as he helped them find a career path in the industry.  He was instrumental in the effective merger of Future Farmers of America with the New Farmers of America, an organization of African-American farmers, so that each could have an equal voice in advocating for the critically important role famers play in the world.

Phelps is a Georgia Agricultural Education Hall of Fame charter member and first African-American inductee. He was the first African-American executive secretary of the Georgia chapter of Future Farmers of America after serving as executive secretary of the New Farmers of America. He was inducted into the Fort Valley Alumni Association Hall of Fame in 2001.

Learn more about Josiah Phelps through the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.

Fact #9: Former Wildcat Marquette King is the NFL’s Only Black Punter

King

“I do some extreme things, but I know that no other punter in the league is doing. And that’s my goal because I just want to stand out. I want to be the best at what I do. Fort Valley State taught me to work really hard. If you decided to keep moving from every situation that was hard, you would never learn, you would never grow. I don’t like taking the easy way out.” Marquette King, Fort Valley State

Marquette King, who attended FVSU as part of the Wildcat Football Team, is the NFL’s only African-American punter, setting records as part of the Oakland Raiders. King will  be featured in a documentary tonight called Breaking Ground- A Story of HBCU Football and the NFL, premiering tonight on the NFL Network. According to the filmmakers, King’s “willingness to be unique has forever changed the way we see his position.” Marquette joins Jerry Rice (Mississippi Valley State University), Doug Williams (Grambling State University), and Mel Blount (Southern University) in discussing “the impact HBCUs had in not only shaping their football careers, but laying the crucial foundation for what the National Football League has become.”

King came to FVSU from Rutland High School in Macon to play wide receiver, but his coach encouraged him to focus on his talents as a punter. In his senior year at FVSU, he was an SIAC All-first Team member, led the conference in average punting yards, and was named the team’s most valuable player.

In 2013, King led the league in yards per punt, and in 2014, King led the league in punting yards and total punts. He has been AFC Special Teams Player of the Week twice. He set Raiders single-season franchise records for punts (109) and punting yards (4,930) in 2014.

“You know a guy like that, that has the talent he has, it comes down to consistency,” Raiders Special Team Coach Brad Seely said. “Being consistent every day, being consistent every game, being consistent for all four quarters, making the plays that are going to affect us positively in the game.

Learn more about Marquette King through the Oakland Raiders here.

Fact #8: Olympian and FVSU Alumna Catherine Hardy Lavender, ‘1952 earned a gold medal and helped set a world record

Hardy Lavender

FVSU alumna Catherine Hardy Lavender, 1952, set an American record for the women’s 50-yard dash and then went on to win a gold medal in 400-meter women’s relay racing at the 1952 Summer Olympic Games in Finland. She was the only representative of the state of Georgia that year in the Olympics. A retired educator, she died at the age of 87 in September 2017.

Catherine Hardy grew up in Carollton, GA at a time when schools were still segregated. She was a basketball stand-out in college, but FVSU track coach Raymond Pitts convinced her to try track. She quickly became a national powerhouse, setting an American record for the 50-yard dash at the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) indoor meet in 1951. She was named an All-American athlete, and won the 50-yard dash, 100-meter, and 200-meter races at the AAU meet the following year. She set another American record, this time in the 200-meter run at the Olympic tryouts as she was named to the American team. She was chosen to anchor the 4×100 meter relay, leading her team to a gold medal as they set a world record and beat the German and Great Britain teams.

After retiring from racing, Hardy married the late Edward Wright Lavender, Sr., and began teaching in Atlanta, GA. She was inducted into the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame in 1999.

Learn more through the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame.

Fact #7: Alumnus Thomas Dortch ’72 is national chairman of 100 Black Men and founder of the Black College Alumni Hall of Fame

Dortch
Thomas Dortch, Jr.

FVSU alumnus Thomas W. Dortch, Jr., 1972, is living history. Now in his second tenure as chairman of 100 Black Men of America, Inc. he leads an organization that touches over 100,000 lives each year through its 10,000 members spread across 97 domestic and international chapters. It is one of the most effective mentoring networks in the country, mobilizing African-American male mentors to transform the lives of underrepresented and disenfranchised youth. The organization provide services in education, health and wellness, economic empowerment, and leadership to positively impact not just the young people they work with, but the communities they live in as well. In addition, it engages in advocacy to decrease barriers in accessing high performing public schools, raises awareness of health disparities and healthy lifestyles, and provides programs in financial literacy, career development, financial planning, investment management, and fiscal responsibility.

Dortch is also the founder of the National Black College Alumni Hall of Fame Foundation, Inc.. The non-profit works to sustain and grow historically black colleges and universities (HBCU’s) through alumni recognition, scholarships, training and technical assistance, and programs to promote humanitarian involvement. The organization has awarded more than $1,160,000 in scholarships and grants to students at HBCUs. Among other programs, the foundation operates the Legacy Lecture Series, designed to equip and empower students to overcome the economic, social cultural and political challenges of today, and to re-shape the fabric of America as they step into tomorrow. The series is presented on various HBCU campuses throughout the academic year. In partnership with the Andrew J. Young Foundation, it also operates the Andrew Young Emerging Leaders Institute (AYEL). The AYEL is designed to assist students at HBCUs, as well as high school students, in developing and/or honing their leadership skills with emphasis on understanding some of the entrepreneurial, social, technological, economic, and political trends and the impact that these likely to occur over the next 20 years and the impact that these trends and events may have on their lives.

Dortch was born in tiny Toccoa, Georgia, 50 miles from Athens. He earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology from Fort Valley State College in 1972 and then proceeded to blaze trails across the state. Just two years after leaving FVSC, he was associate director of the Georgia Democratic Party, and eventually became the first African-American state director for a U.S. Senator (Sam Nunn). Dortch is also CEO of TWD, Inc., a transit company based in Atlanta. He received a U. S. Presidential Citation for Volunteerism, the Martin Luther King, Jr. Distinguished Service Award, the Turner Broadcasting Trumpet Leadership Award, 100 Black Men of America Man of The Decade Award, and The Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s 2004 Distinguished Phoenix Award. He is a past FVSU National Alumni Association president and has sat on a host of boards of directors, including current roles on the boards of Clark Atlanta University and Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University.

In addition to FVSU, Dortch earned a master of arts degree in criminal justice administration from Atlanta University. He also attended Georgia State University as a Ford Fellow in the urban administration policy program. FVSU, Fayetteville State University, the University of Maryland Eastern Shore, Livingstone College, and Jarvis Christian College have each awarded him honorary doctorate degrees.

Learn more about Thomas W. Dortch, Jr. through HistoryMakers.

Fact #6: FVSU Alumnus Howard Nathaniel Lee, ’59, was the first African-American ever generally elected to lead a majority white city in the South.

Lee

When FVSU alumnus Howard Nathaniel Lee, 1959, became mayor of Chapel Hill, North Carolina in 1969, he made American history. No African-American had ever been generally elected to lead a majority white city in the South before. Chapel Hill is the home of the University of North Carolina’s main campus.

Lee was inspired to enter politics after encountering racism in the predominantly white Chapel Hill neighborhood where he lived, and he decided to make a difference, winning the mayoral election by a narrow margin. He revolutionized the town by helping to usher in transit services, affordable housing, and public parks in the city. He went on to be reelected twice in landslides, and then hold other major political offices in North Carolina. In 1977, the governor appointed him Secretary of the North Carolina Department of Natural Resources and Community Development, making him the first African American to serve in a governor’s cabinet in the south. He later was elected to the North Carolina State Senate, focusing on improving public education in the state. In 2003, the North Carolina State Board of Education named him its first African-American chairman, and then in 2009, Governor Beverly Perdue appointed him executive director of the North Carolina Education Cabinet. He was awarded the North Carolina Award, the state’s highest honor, in 2014.

Lee’s autobiography is called The Courage to Lead, One Man’s Journey in Public Service. It tells the story of his rise from a Georgia sharecropper’s farm to make American political history, succeeding in the face of blatant racism. He first enrolled at Clark College, but flunked out. He then came to Fort Valley State College asking for a second chance, which President C.V. Troup personally granted. Three years later, Lee became the first in his family to earn a college degree by graduating from FVSC. He was drafted into the U.S. Army, then went on to earn a master’s degree in social work from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He taught on the faculties of Duke University, and North Carolina A&T University.

After his retirement from government, Lee founded the Howard N. Lee Institute to provide tools and resources to ensure that high-risk middle and high school students have equitable access to high quality education and are prepared to succeed in college, career, and life. Key initiatives of the institute of include community engagement and the STEM Scholars Prep Academy.

From Lee’s book:

“I symbolize the black man
Who is not in the place he expected to be,
But who really does want the world to see
That he has overcome, that he has survived,
And in the new age coming, continues to rise.”

The Black Man’s Journey by Howard N. Lee

Learn more about Howard Nathaniel Lee from the University of North Carolina Gillings School of Public Health.

Watch: Lee discusses his life at the Durham County Library.

Read: Howard the First in Chapel Hill Magazine.

Fact #5: Alumna Dr. Genevieve M. Knight, ’61, helped transform mathematics education.

Knight at DC Chapter
Dr. Genevieve M. Knight and FVSU President Paul Jones

FVSU Alumna Dr. Genevieve M. Knight, 1961 received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics in 1999 for her extraordinary effectiveness in helping people from underrepresented groups excel in mathematics. She helped found the Benjamin Banneker Association, a national non-profit organization and partner affiliate with the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM), dedicated to mathematics education advocacy, establishing a presence for leadership, and professional development to support teachers in leveling the playing field for mathematics learning of the highest quality for African-American students.

Her impact is evident by the accolades she garnered seemingly everywhere she served as an educator. While working at Hampton Institute in 1980, the Virginia Council of Teachers of Mathematics awarded her the College Teacher of the Year Award. Coppin State University presented her with the Louise Kerr Hines Distinguished Faculty Award in 1990. Maryland State College (University of Maryland-College Park) named her Mathematics Teacher of the Year in 1993. The faculty members of the Mathematical Association of American gave her their Distinguished Teaching Award for faculty from Maryland, Virginia, or Washington, DC and she was named the Wilson H. Elkins Distinguished Professor for the entire University System of Maryland. Fittingly, the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities presented her with the Outstanding Faculty Award for Mathematics and Mentoring of Minority Youth.

Dr. Knight was born in Brunswick, Georgia and earned her B.S. in mathematics from Fort Valley State College in 1961. She went on to earn an M.S. in mathematics from Atlanta University and a Ph.D. in mathematics education from the University of Maryland. She overcame communication problems due in large part to throat issues, and then went on to be a star student. She earned straight As as a freshman FVSC student after faculty encouraged her to change her major from home economics to mathematics. During the civil rights movement, she was actively engaged in fighting social injustice in her own way, particularly in addressing the logistics involved in making the mass demonstrations successful. She was inspired to enter mathematics as the Russians launched the Sputnik satellite to orbit Earth, and answered President John F. Kennedy’s call for Americans to help put a man on the moon by becoming more proficient in the math and science fields.

Learn more about Dr. Knight from the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics.

Fact #4: Four NFL players who attended FVSU have been part of Super Bowl winning teams.

Lockette
 Ricardo Lockette

Four NFL players who attended FVSU have been part of Super Bowl winning teams. Super Bowl Champions include Larry Rayfield Wright (with the Super Bowl VI and XII champion Dallas Cowboys), Tyrone Pool (New England Patriots, XXVIII and XXXIX), Ricardo Lockette (Seattle Seahawks, XLVIII), and Nick Harper (Indianapolis Colts, XLI ). Other NFL Super Bowl participants who attended FVSU include Greg Lloyd (Steelers, XXX).

Fact #3: Alumnus Calvin Smyre is the longest-serving GA state legislator and authored the bill creating the Georgia Dome, home of Super Bowl XXVIII in 1994 and Super Bowl XXXIV in 2000.

C Smyre

Fort Valley State University is proud to have alumni serving in the Georgia legislature, including Representative Calvin Smyre, ’70. Smyre was elected at age 26 as the youngest member of the Georgia House of Representatives and is now its the longest-serving member. He was also the first African-American chairman of the state Democratic Party. He authored the legislation to make Martin Luther King, Jr’s birthday a state holiday and the bill to create the Georgia Dome. He serves on the Appropriations Committee, responsible for specifying allocations from the state’s $20 billion budget.

Representative Smyre is president of the National Black Caucus of State Legislators, and was selected in 1985 and 2005 as the national “Legislator of the Year.” He serves on numerous foundation boards, including the Fort Valley State University Foundation Board of Trustees. He is also executive vice president for corporate affairs for Synovus and president of the Synovus Foundation. With 39 banks and over $32 billion in assets, Synovus is a diversified holding company for financial services including banking, financial management, insurance, mortgages, and leasing.

Learn more about Representative Smyre through the Georgia House of Representatives.

Fact #2: Alumnus and NFL Hall of Famer Rayfield Wright played in the third-most Super Bowls in history.

Wright and Lomax
Hall of Famer Rayfield Wright with former FVSU coach Stan Lomax

As you watch the Philadelphia Eagles take on the New England Patriots this Sunday, consider this: FVSU Alumnus Rayfield Wright played in five Super Bowls, tied for the third most in history.

Wright is an NFL Legend and inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2006. During his 13-year career with the Dallas Cowboys, the FVSU alumnus went by the nickname, appropriately, of the “Big Cat.” A Cowboys captain, he was a defensive powerhouse, selected to play in the Pro Bowl for six seasons from 1971-76. His five Super Bowls, the second most in history, resulted in two championships. He was recognized as part of the 1970s “All Decade Team,” a fantasy team of the decade’s best players.

You may have driven down Rayfield Wright Drive in Fort Valley, which forms part of the perimeter around the main campus. Wright’s story is one of determination and a refusal to give up. He failed to make his high school football team in Griffin, GA though exceled in basketball. Legendary FVSU coach Stan Lomax discovered his athletic talent, and saw to it that Wright was given an athletic scholarship. Once at FVSU, he began to flourish as a player in both basketball and football. The NBA’s Cincinnati Royals tried to draft him during his junior year in college, but he declined in order to finish his degree. He was drafted by the Cowboys the next year and eventually was named by ESPN as one of the top 10 Cowboys of all time.

Since his career in football concluded, he has made giving back a priority, raising money for college scholarships through the Rayfield Wright Foundation, helping to start a home for at-risk boys in East Texas and supporting charities like the Make-A-Wish Foundation. In 2017, he was honored during Super Bowl LI as one of the 29 Pro Football Hall of Fame members who attended HBCUs.

Other FVSU alums who played in Superbowls are Tyrone Poole, Nick Harper and Greg Lloyd and Ricardo Lockette.

Find out more about Rayfield Wright through the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Fact #1: Alumnus Austin Walden, 1902, was Georgia’s first black judge and a civil and voting rights pioneer.

AT Walden

If you can vote, eat a meal, ride a bus, or attend school in Georgia today, it had a lot to do with FVSU Alumnus Austin Thomas Walden. Walden was the first black Georgian appointed to be a judge after Reconstruction. Before serving as judge, he had a trailblazing legal career which had an incalculable impact in elevating the rights of African-Americans in the state. He led a six-year battle to win pay equity for Georgia’s black teachers in the 1940s, and another to allow African-Americans to vote in party primaries. He was the lead attorney in litigation to force the desegregation of Atlanta’s city buses and public schools, and negotiated the peaceful desegregation of the city’s lunch counters.

Fort Valley, GA native Austin Thomas Walden graduated alone in Fort Valley High and Industrial School’s class of 1902, before earning a bachelor’s degree from what is now Clark Atlanta University and a law degree from the University of Michigan. He began practicing law in Macon at a time when there were very few African-Americans lawyers in the country. He joined the Army during World War I and served as a captain and assistant judge advocate. After serving in the Army, he began practicing law in Atlanta, where he founded the Gate City Bar Association to provide African-American lawyers with resources and promote legal education for African-Americans. At the time, African-Americans were not allowed to be members of most other bar associations. He later co-founded the Atlanta Negro Voters League, helping to increase voter participation. He was one of the first two black Georgians to serve as a delegate to the Democratic National Convention.

Learn more about Austin Thomas Walden from the New Georgia Encyclopedia and the University of Michigan Law School.

FVSU will highlight a fact about FVSU’s impact on American history for each day during Black History Month 2018.