Albany State University President Everette Freeman addresses the media Thursday at a news conference where he announced that the Georgia Board Board of Regents has granted the school’s request to award honorary degrees to 32 former students who were expelled from the college in 1961 during the Albany Civil Rights Movement.
ALBANY, Ga. — Albany State University’s fall commencement on Saturday will be a bittersweet moment for 32 former students who will receive honorary degrees from the university.
The students were expelled from Albany State College in 1961 for taking part in protests during the early days of the Albany Civil Rights Movement.
The 32 honorary degrees are the most ever awarded at one time by the University System of Georgia Board of Regents, and will cap a year-long effort by the ASU Student Government Association, faculty and administration.
“I can’t think of a better way to end a year of celebration than with the awarding of these honorary degrees,” ASU President Everette Freeman said Thursday, referring to the school’s celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Albany Movement. “This is a very happy moment for ASU. The students were exercising their rights during a time of racial segregation that resulted in their being expelled from school.
“But they went on to lead exemplary lives.”
University System of Georgia Chancellor Hank Huckaby announced this week that he, on behalf of the regents, had approved Freeman’s request to award the honorary degrees.
“The University System recognizes the unique nature of the situation that occurred at Albany State 50 years ago and applauds President Freeman and the University for paying tribute to these former students,” Huckaby said.
The school will award 31 honorary baccalaureate degrees and one honorary doctorate — that to Bernice Johnson Reagon. A noted cultural historian, Reagon also will be the commencement speaker.
“This is one of those moments you wait for all of your life,” Freeman said. “This is a wonderful time for the people of Dougherty County to come together. We thank Chancellor Huckaby and the Board of Regents for their leadership.
“Our recognition of these men and women completes a year of programs, remembrances and salutes to this extraordinary class of 50 years ago.”
In addition to Johnson, those being honored Saturday are Walter Armstrong, Marva Berry, Lillian Sue Bethel, Hosezell Blash, Ann Booyer, Bobby Burch, Henri Cohen, Janie Culbreth, Brenda Darton, Richard Gay Jr., Lula T. George, Larry Gibson, Bertha Gober, Blanton Hall, Gail Hall, Benjamin Humphries, Donchester Johnson, Opal Jones, Annette Jones, James Jones, Nick Louketis, Harold Manning, Alton Moultrie, Wilda Person, Ola Mae Quartimon, Charles Ranson, Andrew Reid, Jeanette Sibley, Betty Slater Williams, Evelyn Toney and Andrew Williams.
The graduation ceremony is scheduled for 9:45 a.m. Saturday at the Albany Civic Center.