Excellence with Caring continues

Every year on Oct. 3, the campus celebrates one of the greatest achievements of Thomas De Salle Tucker and Thomas Van Gibbs: the establishment of a publicly-supported institution of higher education for the Sunshine State’s African-American men and women. This day was aptly named Founder’s Day. The then State Normal College opened its doors in 1887 inside a single, wood frame building with two instructors and 15 students. Tucker, of Sierra Leone, West Africa, served as the first president, heading the college until 1901. In 1891, under Tucker’s leadership, the college moved from Copeland Street on the west side of Tallahassee to its present location, Highwood, the former slave plantation of Gov. William P. Duval, sitting on “the highest” of the city’s seven hills. The institution’s name also changed to State Normal and Industrial College for Colored Students. Gibbs, a member of the Florida Legislature from 1884-1887, introduced the bill that created the college, and served as a vice-president and professor before his death in 1898. In 1890, Congress passed the Second Morill Act. In 1891, the college received $7,500 under this legislation for agricultural and mechanical arts education, becoming the black land grant institution for the State of Florida. The institution’s name changed again in 1909 to Florida Agricultural and Mechanical College for Negroes. The college finally achieved university status in 1953. Under the leadership of Presidents Nathan B. Young (1901-1923), J.R.E. Lee (1924-1944), William H. Gray Jr. (1944-1949) and George W. Gore Jr. (1949-1968), the institution witnessed rapid organizational, physical and academic growth. The first three alumni presidents, Benjamin L. Perry, Jr. (1968-1977), Walter L. Smith (1977-1985) and Frederick S. Humphries (1985-2001), continued to build the university and acutely led it to victory through a variety of threats and obstacles. In addition to its permanent institutional heads, four interim presidents have served FAMU with distinction, providing consistency and direction during periods of transition. These men are: William H.A. Howard (1923-1924), J.B. Bragg Sr. (1944), H. Manning Efferson (1949) and Henry Lewis III (2001-2002). On May 6, 1996 the campus and the surrounding community was designated as a national historic district. In 1997 the Princeton Times Review recognized FAMU as its first “College of the Year.” The accolades continue. Alumni Arthur Collins, the 1982 student body president, and Norma White, the first female member of the Marching 100 band, were selected to serve as the charter chair and vice-chair respectively of the Board of Trustees last year. Famous FAMU alumni includes Congresspersons Carrie Meek, Alcee Hastings and Corrine Brown; Jesse McCrary, Florida’s first black cabinet member since Reconstruction and Joseph Hatchett, the first black member of the Florida Supreme Court. On June 3, the fourth alumnus permanent president, Fred Gainous, inherited a university that has soared from its humble beginnings to become a premier institution of higher learning.