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Hail to Thee, Dear Alma Mater

October 20, 2016 in 1950s-1960s

It might be said that a student’s affinity with a particular college or university can be compared to many of today’s marriages. While some partners “stay the course, others may “change horses midstream, and still others say their good byes—forever. One thing is certain, however, some parts of what they experienced during marriage will remain forever. Same with college experiences. One such part consists of images of high visibility notables that are revered for their talents, or their appearance, discussed for their fame, and sometimes abhorred for their notoriety. These images tend to stick long after college life is over and perseveres well into the future. Notables. Most colleges have published lists of them sometimes as a lure to incoming would be residents. Regardless of the objective, these lists, these images, serve as a part of the beacon for both enriching and problematic experiences that most college students endure.

Both the University of Kentucky and Fisk University publish exhaustive lists of such figures as one might imagine being founded almost concurrently around 1865. Following are abbreviated lists of individuals in no particular order by date of attendance, rank of difficulty of major or scope or importance of accomplishments. The listees simply tread the same soil, experienced degrees of a similar culture, or can say “Hail” to the same Alma Mater. Alfred Lord Tennyson in In Memoriam had Ulysses say, “I am a part of all that I have met.” I agree. Therefore, It is enlightening to me as a history buff and a Kentucky woman who has lived a great portion of her life during the Civil Rights Era and its aftermath to gain knowledge about my historically notable forbears and contemporarily notable achievers.

University of Kentucky Notables, Memorable or Acclaimed (a partial list)

  • Thomas Hunt Morgan, Nobel Prize in physiology, father of modern genetics
  • Lyman T. Johnson, filed the lawsuit that integrated the University of Kentucky
  • Michael York, Pulitzer Prize for Investigative Reporting
  • Sam Abell, National Geographer Photographer
  • Albert B. “Happy” Chandler, Governor of Kentucky, U.S. Senator from Kentucky, Commissioner of Major League Baseball , inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame
  • “Fabulous Five” 1948 Olympic Basketball Gold Medalists
  • **Carl Watson, Ben Nero, Jim Thomas,. Anderson, James O’rouke, pioneering African-American physicians during early 60’s
  • Elizabeth Maddox Roberts, Kentucky poet and novelist
  • Dr. Randolph Hollingsworth, eminent  Kentucky women’s and civil rights era historian, assistant provost undergraduate college
  • John T.Scopes, defendant in the Scopes Trials
  • Ashley Judd, theater actress, film actress, television actress (UK graduated Phi Beta Kappa)
  • Mitch McConnell, US Senator from Kentucky, current  US Senate Majority Leader
  • Read Morgan, actor (The Deputy), Wildcat basketball player
  • Story Musgrave, Astronaut
  • Michael Orefice, Managing Director Macquarie London United Kingdom
  • Wendell Berry, poet, essayist, farmer
  • Emily Cox, Ms. Kentucky 2005
  • John D. Minton, Jr., Chief Justice of Kentucky Supreme Court
  • **John Pipes Gaines, Publisher, Bowling Green, KY Daily News, member of News LLC
  • **Coach Adolph Rupp (affiliate), one of the most famous coaches in American college basketball
  • Otis Singletary, Former UK President
  • Martha Layne Collins, Kentucky’s first woman governor and only to date
  • **Kentucky Basketball Wildcats
  • Tom Payne, first African –American ever to play basketball for U. of K.
  • **Rupp’s Runts, Cotton Nash, Larry Conley, Louie Dampier, Pat Riley,  Thad Jaracz, Tommy Kron, a most famous Wildcat basketball team
  • Greg Page, one of two first UK Football Players, died from injuries sustained during practice
  • Wilbar Hacket, Harston Hogg, Nat Northington, first African-Americans to integrate SEC. Monument erected on UK Campus in 2016
  • Lee Todd, Jr. Former U.K. President
  • Carol Gatton, automobile dealer executive, largest gift ever to U.K.
  • William Lipscomb, winner Nobel Prize in chemistry
  • Paul Chellgreen, CEO of Ashland Oil, Inc.
  • Helen G.King, First permanent director of the U.K. Alumni Association, “Miss University of Kentucky”
  • William Funkhouser, chairman of zoology department, dean of graduate school
  • **John W. Oswald, former President of the University of Kentucky

Fisk University Notables, Memorable or Acclaimed, (a partial list, also)

  • WEB Dubois, Fisk class of 1888, co-founder of NAACP, first African-American to get a Ph.D from Harvard University
  • Arna Bontemps, **Robert Hayden, James Weldon Johnson (author of what is deemed the Negro National Anthem “Lift Every Voice and Sing”…The others were Fisk faculty members and ”greats” in American Literature)
  • Booker T. Washington, Founder of Tuskegee Institute, Fisk Board of Trustees, wife and children Fisk alumni
  • Saint Elmo Brady, one of first African Americans to achieve eminence in chemistry
  • Elmer Samuel Ives, Class of 1903.  Work provides an early verification of quantum theory
  • John Hope Franklin, From Slavery to Freedom, expert historian on African-American experience
  • **Judith Jameson, esteemed dance choreographer, and Artistic Directress of Alvin alley American Dance Theater
  • The Honorable Hazel O’Leary, J.D, Seventh US Secretary of Energy
  • Nikki Giovanni, Two time winning Pulitzer author.
  • John Work, Sr., John Work, Jr., and John Work III, famous composer-musicologists
  • Mary Frances Berry, former Chair US Commission on Human Rights
  • David Levering Lewis, Two time Pulitzer Prize winner
  • Alma Powell, audiologist, “America’s Promise” (wife of Colin Powell
  • Constance Baker Motley, first State Senator of New York
  • Diane Nash, Civil Rights activist Freedom Rider affiliate, Chair of Student Central Committee, Nashville, Tennessee during Civil Rights .Era
  • ** Congressman John R.Lewis (mentioned previously) led infamous Bloody Sunday demonstration, Freedom Rider, 1963 Chairman of SNCC, awarded Presidential Medal of Freedom n 2011.
  • Famous Fisk Jubilee Singers who sang the world over garnering funds to help keep Fisk viable

**Denotes presence on Campus when I was an enrolled student.

Speaking of notables whose images and deeds have been well-documented in the news, archives and annals of history, brings to mind the respect for student identified ”notables” as were pointed out in the Oval yearbook at Fisk University when I first arrived.  The University of Kentucky had its own way of identifying such individuals.

Taking UK to Fisk

October 18, 2016 in 1950s-1960s, Political history, Social history

The experience of being a Kentucky black female transfer student from a large, predominantly white public institution to a small, predominantly private one of color during the civil rights era afforded me many unique and multifaceted perspectives.

150 anniversary - Fisk University logoFounding Similarities

Fisk University, the higher education institution to which I transferred and the one from whence I came, the University of Kentucky, were decidedly different in many areas, but certainly not all. Both were founded during approximately the same time period in history: U.K. in 1865 by John Bryan Bowman and Fisk, also, in 1865 by John Ogden, Reverend Erastus Cravath, and Reverend Edward Smith. It was named after General Clinton B. Fisk of the Tennessee Freedman’s Bureau. Fisk U. has remained a small private school while UK located has grown by leaps and bounds remaining large and public. Both, then, as higher level of learning institutions were highly ranked in their respective categories. Both had produced historically notable graduates, and both had achieved the status of University over the years.

Thenceforward, Characteristics Begin to Differ

In my case, starting with the application form for each institution, remarkable differences stood out. U.K. presented a regular run-of-the mill item. Despite their strong emphasis on writing within the curriculum, not one essay was required as they are at institutions of today. (My younger daughter applied to one institution which required six essays by the time one finished the a’s and b’s as additional segments!) Fisk, on the other hand wanted a listing of how many telephones and how many cars one had at his/her home abode. Seriously! Not sure why that was a request on the application form. No essay was required there either.

Whereas, many of UK’s notables centered on basketball sports figures, those at Fisk tended to be makers and shakers in civil rights history. Of course, there were notables outside of these realms, also.

Fisk, a Hotbed of Civil Rights Issues, etc.

Fisk University, located in Nashville, Tennessee was a hotbed of issues, protests, and activities during the 1950’s and 1960’s, with its students historically recognized for fighting injustices. As a Kentucky female of color arriving around 1962, by one year, I had missed the infamous lunch counter sit-ins that landed many females in my age group in jail., but the fumes were still hovering as groups of “Negroes” such as now Congressman John L. Lewis who had been severely beaten several times during such integrative excursions as “bloody Sunday,” went out on almost a daily basis with other young, black male students to integrate eating counters, restaurants, and other facilities in Nashville as they were about the business of breaking down racial barriers and challenging city inequities.

My arrival at the time I did in civil rights history afforded me to share the small campus with young blacks other than Congressman Lewis. One such student was the late Ronald Walters, a leading scholar of the problems race, politics and author of 13 books, one of which mapped a way to the White House for the first-ever black president whenever that should occur. Dr. Walters later became director of the African-American Leadership Institute at the University of Maryland and was oft quoted and interviewed on national television. He was instrumental in the establishment of the Congressional Black Caucus. The list of “notable” notables will be continued later in this blog.

Someone once remarked that, “Perhaps no single institution has played so central a role as Fisk University in the shaping of black learning and culture in America.” I agree.

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