ASU celebrates Founder's Day

Photo by Carly Farrell

Photo by Carly Farrell

ALBANY, Ga. -- Albany State University celebrated Founder's Day on Friday to reflect on its past and how far it has come.

The guest speaker was Dr. William Anderson, the first president of Albany's civil rights movement and a key player in the 1961-62 effort that launched a frontal assault on Jim Crow segregation in the Good Life City.

Anderson recalled a time under his leadership during which a delegation had been formed by the movement to speak to city leadership about a petition to equalize things for black and white citizens -- which officials seemed less than receptive to.

Anderson took Founder's Day as an opportunity to acknowledge some of his followers, a few of whom were present at the ceremony.

"They didn't care how long it would take," he said to the audience at the program. "I didn't promise them anything. We just said to follow us to jail because (the city leadership) would not listen."

Anderson recalled a moment in which he came across a 90-year-old Albany resident wishing to participate in a civil rights march. "He said: 'I won't live to see my freedom, but my children and grandchildren will,' " Anderson said.

After the Albany Movement, Anderson went on to establish himself at a surgical practice in Michigan, and was eventually influenced to come back to Albany.

"I said that I didn't want to come back to the South," he recalled. "My wife said: 'You made a promise that if you got your education that you were going (back) down South. They don't need you (in Michigan). The need you in Albany, Ga.' "

Anderson began his career practicing medicine in Albany, which he did for six years. He completed his training in general surgery in Detroit, where he conducted a successful group surgical practice until 1984. He is a graduate of the Des Moines University College of Osteopathic Medicine.

Anderson was given a key to the city at Friday's program by Albany Mayor Willie Adams.

Among the others that took the podium at the event included Josephine Holley-Jefferson, daughter of the university's founder -- Joseph Winthrop Holley.

"My father would be proud to see how his vision has evolved," she said. "Each time I return to the campus I wonder what I will see (that is new or different). I wish my father were here. He would be proud that his early visions have bore fruit.

"He truly believed education was the key to a happy and successful life."

Weyman Patterson, a 1961 graduate of Albany State, also recalled some memories of ASU's founding father.

"Being a native of Albany, I grew up under the influence of Dr. Joseph Winthrop Holley," he said. "We all did. I literally grew up on the campus of Albany State University."

Also during his remarks, Patterson made reference to the 2000 film "Pay it Forward" and how it related to Holley's contributions to Southwest Georgia.

"(On behalf of) those here today and those to come I say thank you, Dr. Holley, for paying it forward," Patterson said.

The event concluded with a brief service at Holley's grave site, which is located on the ASU campus.

Holley arrived in Albany and established the Albany Bible and Manual Training Institution in 1903, now known as Albany State University. Albany State celebrates Founder's Day every year on the first Friday in April. Holley was born on April 3, 1874, and died on July 15, 1958.

Several events were scheduled for Friday as part of the Founder's Day weekend festivities including an alumni luncheon, a room dedication and the Blue and Gold spring football game. In addition, a violin recital featuring Gareth Johnson is set for 4 p.m. Sunday at the Albany Municipal Auditorium.