Against the Grain II

It’s time to honor Dr. Humphries with a statue

Vaughn R. Wilson

For over 133 years, a statue of Robert E. Lee stood in plain sight in New Orleans.  It was a tribute to a hero of the land and the principals for which he stood.  He represented a time of pride for the confederacy and they honored him with an artwork to remember what he did and what he stood for.

Statues of Jefferson Davis, the president of the confederacy, and several other key figures in that ideology were honored by those who were proud of their accomplishments. 

On the campus of Florida A&M University, there is but one statue of a great.  Former Rattler football players got together to raise over $125,000 between 2000-2001 to erect a statue of legendary coach Alonzo Smith “Jake” Gaither, which sits in front of the gymnasium that bears his name.   It is adorned with busts of some of his assistant coaches.  

Visitors have made that a priority photo spot for families visiting the campus.  Even during Spring Preview where thousands of prospective students descend on the campus, the very sight of the statue is an attraction and causes students and parents alike to read the inscription to find out exactly who Gaither was.

Recently, the new state-of-the-art Center for Academic Student Services or CASS Building as it is called, has drawn its share of attention.  The newly erected snake mascot statue is the new hot photo spot.  It scares some, but attracts exponentially more visitors than any other spot on campus.

During the Humphries era, four major achievements of the numerous advancements FAMU attained during his era stand out.

First, FAMU was named College of the Year by the Princeton Review.  Though it is a total effort of the entire school, his personal approach to students, faculty, staff, alumni and corporate America fueled FAMU as it operated like a well-oiled machine.

Second, his support of whole student development to include intramurals, intercollegiate athletics and the Marching “100.”  With his support of Dr. William P. Foster, the Marching “100” earned the Sudler Trophy as presented by the John Phillip Sousa Foundation.  It is equated to the marching band Heisman award.  It was the first HBCU to win the award.

Third, was the growth of the campus population.  During Humphries’ tenure, the university was bulging at the seams.  The enrollment justified the requests and funding of many of the new buildings on the campus to this day.

Fourth, and definitely not least are the remarkable alumni that matriculated during his tenure.  Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, Hollywood producers Rob Hardy and Will Packer, actress KJ Smith, NFL star Earl Holmes are a few of the many names of individuals who came through FAMU in his era.

Humphries made it a top priority to raise money for both the institution and the student body.  The FAMU Industry Cluster was a unique initiative of the university to establish partnerships with corporate America.  Humphries was often seen walking across campus while entertaining CEOs of Fortune 500 companies.  He sold FAMU to them like no other individual has to date. 

It’s time to honor our own.  It’s time for a statue on campus to represent the stature he possessed as one of the greatest presidents of Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University. 

Not only did he give us our mantra “Excellence with caring,” he took time to pen our war cry, the “Rattler charge!”  He is the reason we STRIKE, STRIKE and STRIKE AGAIN!


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