Thomas Dortch, member of FAMU Board of Trustees, dies at 72

Photo of Thomas Dortch courtesy: Byron Small

Thomas W. Dortch Jr., a successful businessman and philanthropist in Atlanta and a member of the Florida A&M University Board of Trustees since 2016, has died. He was 72.

According to FAMU officials. Dortch died peacefully at his Atlanta home on Wednesday evening. He had been battling pancreatic cancer, according to FAMU.

Dortch was born on April 12, 1950 in Toccoa, Georgia to Lizzie Dortch and Thomas W. Dortch, Sr. He went on to build a life as a dedicated civic leader, businessman and advocate for students at Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

Dortch first attended Fort Valley State University in 1972, graduating with a bachelor’s in sociology, before attending Clark Atlanta University, where he earned a master’s in criminal justice administration. He has also received honorary doctorate degrees from Fayetteville State University, Jarvis Christian College, Livingstone College, University of Maryland Eastern Shore and from his alma mater, Fort Valley State University.

Although he is formally known in the Tallahassee community for his service on the FAMU Board of Trustees, Dortch also served on the CAU and Talladega College BOTs, committed to making HBCUs a better place for generations to come.

In an announcement to the university regarding Dortch’s passing, FAMU President Larry Robinson described Dortch as a significant figure in the African American community.

“He was great not only for us, but the whole community of African Americans and in general. What a great human being. He understood that Florida A&M University and other HBCUs are in the business of preparing young people to live their best life,” Robinson stated. “His commitment to Black excellence was unmatched. He was committed to ensuring that students at the nation’s HBCUs had as much opportunity as anyone else. I don’t think this community has ever had a greater friend and supporter than Tommy Dortch.”

Dortch has many notable accomplishments on his resume. He founded the National Black College Alumni Hall of Fame Foundation, co-founded both the Georgia Association of Minority Entrepreneurs (GAME) and the Greater Atlanta Economic Alliance, served as the national chairman of 100 Black Men of America, Inc. for six terms, wrote and published his book “The Miracles of Mentoring: How to Encourage and Lead Future Generations,” and worked as an administrative aide for U.S. Senator Sam Nunn of Georgia, becoming the first African American to serve as state director.

Carrington Whigham, former student body president at FAMU, joined Dortch on the FAMU Board of Trustees for the 2021-2022 school year.

“Trustee Dortch was the type of leader who, anytime there was an opportunity to discuss my professional plans and aspirations, was always so helpful and insightful,” Whigham said. “He encouraged us all that no heights couldn’t be reached.”

A celebration of life and legacy of Thomas W. Dortch Jr. will be held at 11 am Feb. 25 at New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Atlanta.

In lieu of flowers, the Dortch family is asking that contributions be made to the Thomas W. Dortch Jr. Foundation or the National Black College Alumni Hall of Fame Foundation, Incorporated.

Contributions can be made at https://TWD-INC.NET/TWD-LEGACY/