President James H. Ammons and the entire Florida A&M University community will celebrate the university’s 120th anniversary, on Oct. 3, during the annual Founder’s Day celebration. The Founder’s Day program is scheduled for Wednesday at 10:10 a.m. in Lee Hall Auditorium.
One of the highlights of the celebration will be the guest speaker, William H. Gray III. Gray III, son of FAMU’s fourth president, William H. Gray Jr., who served as leader of the college from 1944 to 1949.
According to FAMU’s Office of Public Relations, Gray III was the president and CEO of the United Negro College Fund before starting his own business advisory firm called the Amani Group.
From 1979 to 1991, Gray III served as an U.S. Congressman representing the Second District of Pennsylvania. During this time, he was secretary and vice-chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, and also served as the first African-American Majority Whip of the U.S. House. Gray III also chaired the House’s Budget Committee and the Democratic Caucus.
After his congressional tenure, Gray III served as a special advisor to the President during President Bill Clinton’s administration.
After 35 years as the pastor of Philadelphia’s historic Bright Hope Baptist Church, Gray III recently retired.
Gray III’s grandfather, the Rev. William H. Gray, Sr., and his father the Rev. William Gray, Jr., FAMU’s fourth president, were also long-serving pastors at Bright Hope Baptist Church.
According to Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University: A Centennial History, by Leedell W. Neyland, President Gray, Jr. graduated from Bluefield State College and the University of Pennsylvania.
While Gray, Jr. was the president of FAMU, the university underwent an extensive building program.
Facilities constructed during Gray’s tenure included the dinning hall, Diamond, Cropper, and Wheatley halls and Coleman Library. Other campus improvements that were completed under this administration included the completion of Polkhorne Village and the university’s health care facilities.
In the late 1980s, the William H. Gray Core Center Plaza, located behind McGuinn Hall, was named in President Gray, Jr.’s honor.
Murell Dawson, archivist and curator of the Meek-Eaton Black Archives Research Center and Museum said, “FAMU’s Founder’s Day celebration revisits 1887, the university’s founding date and pays tribute especially to the institution’s original founders, President Thomas De Salle Tucker and Vice President Thomas Van Gibbs. Miss Laura Clark would join the faculty in 1898, and is honored for being FAMU’s first female teacher.”
In celebration of this event, and to welcome former Congressman Gray III back to FAMU, the Meek-Eaton Black Archives is presenting a special mini-exhibit on President Gray, Jr. that will run through October 12.
“I keep learning more and more about FAMU’s great history,” said Kenneth Thompson, a 22-year-old senior business administration student from Tallahassee. “I think Founder’s Day is an event all Famuans can be proud of.”
To find out more information about FAMU’s Founder’s Day celebration, call (850) 599-3413.