SUMMATION OF LIFE & LEADERSHIP OF FAMU’S PAST PRESIDENTS, SERIES PART 8: GEORGE W. GORE, JR. [1950-1968]

About the Series

Photo George W. Gore Jr Courtesy State Archives of Florida

Photo George W. Gore Jr
Courtesy State Archives of Florida

George W. Gore Jr, son of a minister, was born in 1901 in Nashville, Tennessee. He received an A.B. degree in English and Journalism from Depauw University, a Master’s degree from Harvard University, and a PH.D from Columbia University. Before coming to FAMU he served 23 years as Dean of College at Tennessee A&I College (now Tennessee State University). He was a member of numerous social organizations, professional organizations, and honor societies including multiple fraternities and lodges. In 1937 he founded the Alpha Kappa Mu Honor Society, which now stands at 156 chapters. He was on the Board of Directors of a bank in Nashville, a trustee at Kent School of Law, a member of the National Executive Committee Boy Scouts of America, and a member of the Board of Trustees at the Florida Normal and Industrial Memorial College in St. Augustine (now Florida Memorial). He served as editor of the Broadcaster and the Quarterly Review of Higher Education for Negroes; and published numerous scholarly articles.

Gore ushered in tremendous growth in the physical plant and academic programs at Florida A & M University. He carried the momentum from work initiated by previous presidents J.R.E. Lee, William H. Gray, and Acting President H. Manning Efferson. As President, Gore faced the first serious threat of the closure of Florida A&M University. He would take the law school and the FAMU Hospital to greater heights only to see both closed. He would be blamed by some for not saving these programs although he faced an overwhelming financial dilemma because of them. Gore served for 18 years to see FAMU through the Civil Rights Movement, the diminished capacity of black self-determination, financial dilemmas and formal threats to the progress and existence of FAMU.

Photo Gore with Wife & Daughter Courtesy State Archives of Florida

Photo Gore with Wife & Daughter
Courtesy State Archives of Florida

Gore was married to Pearl Mayo Winrow Gore and they parented a daughter, Pearl Mayo Gore Dansby. Mrs. Gore was very active at the University and in the community. According to Neyland she made the Gore’s home at Sunshine Manor a home away from home for many students and faculty. The Sunshnie Manor home served three presidents and today is home to the counseling center on FAMU’s campus. Mrs. Gore was the first wife of a FAMU President to receive a Master’s Degree while at FAMU. Neyland writes about Mrs. Gore:

A staunch member of Bethel Baptist Church, she founded the Benevolent Center, which provided money and clothing to needy families; the Jolly Kids Club, which provided an outlet for youngsters through dances, parties, trips and cultural activities; and weekly prayer services for ambulatory patients at the FAMU Hospital. With the help of the ministers in the city she converted a meditation room into a chapel. Her prayer services became so popular that the hospital installed an intercom system so that all who desired could listen.

Gore retired in 1968. He died at his home in Nashville in 1982 at 81 years of age. Pearl Winrow Gore outlived her husband and passed in 1998. Their daughter Pearl Mayo Gore Dansby earned a PhD in Clinical Psychology from Ohio State University in 1962 and thereafter taught at Tennessee State University. She passed in 2007.

Synopsis

  • Lf to Rt Rebecca Steele, Sadie Gaither, Althea Gibson, Annette Thorpe/Courtesy State Archives of Florida

    Lf to Rt Rebecca Steele, Sadie Gaither, Althea Gibson, Annette Thorpe/Courtesy State Archives of Florida

    Under the Gore administration an already active outreach grew internationally. Within days of Gore’s start at FAMC Dr. and Mrs. S. Randolph Edmonds oversaw the first High School Drama Festival held at FAMC and establishment of the Interscholastic Speech and Drama Association. They followed this with a FAMC Playmakers Guild interstate tour through Georgia, North Carolina, Virginia, and South Carolina. The Guild would later tour parts of Africa. Dr. William P. Foster and the Marching Band participated in Festival of States Annual parade, the first black college band to do so. Althea Gibson, a freshman at the time, won the Women’s Indoor Tennis Match and was second at the National Indoor Tennis Tournament, for which the college celebrated Althea Gibson Day. In that same year she was awarded Outstanding Athlete of the Year by the Harlem New York YMCA Branch, an award presented to her by the legendary Jackie Robinson. Ms. Gibson eventually paved the way for the likes of Serena and Venus Williams by winning 11 Grand Slams and achieving the number one ranking among women’s international tennis in 1957 and 1958. Eventually she was entered into the International Women Sports Hall of Fame.
  • Gore would prove to be a great communicator. In his short inaugural address, which was attended by over 75 officials from other colleges and universities, he outlined both how he would purpose his attempt at progressing FAMC and what he wanted to see as outcomes. He first stated:

    Just as the life-power of a great institution exceeds that of any individual, so much the more necessary is it that its life-history shall be one of natural and progressive development. While within certain wide limits the great activity and expansion are desirable, it is essential that there shall be a true and continuous progress, and not a series of abrupt, violent, and ill-combined movements, inspired by caprice or an uncontrollable desire for change merely for the sake of change.

    He then presented his blueprint for the future, which ultimately were to “establish an institution worthy of the traditions of the founding fathers, dedicated to the evolving needs of the youth in Florida and measuring up to the highest and best standards of American Higher Education.”

    Having made progress, Gore In 1959 announced to FAMU employees his Fourteen Point Program for the overall improvement of the university.

    FAMU Playmakers present press book to Governor Collins prior to African tour

    Courtesy of State Archives of Florida

  • Early in his tenure Gore followed in the path of previous presidents by hosting an exhibition before the Governor, visiting legislatures, and other state officials. The FAMU contingent served a barbecue dinner with lots of entertainment by the College Choir and Concert Band. They provided a built-to-scale plan of the future Florida A&M. Gore later requested $8,000,000 from the legislature. Like previous Presidents he received far less and had to prioritize how he would use the building funds provided. By the end of his tenure the Gore administration had added a dairy barn, three faculty duplexes, Building Construction Laboratory, Law Wing of Coleman Library, ROTC Building Howard Hall), Guest House, addition to Nurses’ Home in Jacksonville, addition to University Commons, men’s dormitory (Gibbs Hall), science-pharmacy building (Jones Hall), classroom building and theater (Tucker Hall/Charles Winter Wood Theater), agriculture and home economics building (Perry-Page Building), Student Union Building, Demonstration School Building, football stadium (Bragg Stadium), women’s dormitory (Truth Hall), Demonstration School Cafeteria, maintenance department shops, renovation of Lee Hall, and a health and physical education building.
  • When Gore arrived he was faced with many of the same problems experienced by prior Presidents. Negatively impacting the college’s accreditation status was the fact that only four of seven division heads and four of fourteen departmental heads had doctorate degrees; the teaching loads were too heavy; the physical plant and opportunities for extracurricular activity were questionable; there were insufficient library materials and equipment; teacher salaries were inadequate; and written policy on teacher tenure was inadequate. In the beginning he faced a set of accreditation standards that were designed only for black schools. In 1957 that changed and FAMU was judged by the same standards required of white institutions.
  • To recruit teachers in a competitive environment Gore created housing for new teachers and increased salaries. Between 1953 and 1957 teachers holding a doctorate degree increased from 17 to 27. By the end of his tenure there was an increase in salaries, the number of teachers with Ph.Ds, and the number of administrative staff. The student body increased to over 3,000.
  • In 1946, the Florida Committee on Secondary Schools of the Southern Association warned that the Demonstration School would lose its accreditation if a new and separate facility was not created for the school and other details such as holding school for at least 175 days. By the time that Gore arrived the Demonstration school had lost its accreditation. By 1957 Gore saw to the restoration of accreditation with the building of a new high school and the making of other accommodations as required.
  • Between 1936 and 1945 the Nursing students had to travel to Baltimore, Maryland to gain experience. That changed through an agreement with the Duval Medical Center that allowed nursing students and clinical students to gain valuable experience in Jacksonville. Students also gained experience at a Psychiatric hospital through the Veterans Administration Hospital in Tuskegee. The Division of Nursing was accredited in 1952. IN the early 1960s it became the School of Nursing.
  • Culminating the efforts of past presidents and the continuous work of Dr. L. H. B. Foote, a new $2,000,000 Florida A&M College Hospital, Health Center, and Nursing School was formally opened. The 105 bed hospital was the only such facility available to blacks within a 150 mile radius. Fully equipped with the latest medical equipment it served the medical needs for over 90,000 blacks, offered workshops, seminars and professional conferences for the continuing education of doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and other health care personnel. Though the hospital was designated for blacks only, it was staffed by a majority of white doctors as there were only four black physicians in the county.
  • In compliance with the 1964 Civil rights Act and the Morill Act hospitals were required to meet certain mandates to continue receiving federal funding. M. T. Mustian, Jr., an administrator at the all white Tallahassee Memorial Hospital was quoted as saying “We do not have any Negro patients because we are competing with an all-Negro hospital in the community which has not signed compliance.” In 1966, a private meeting between the Board of Regents, the Governor, Board of Education, city, county and Tallahassee Memorial Hospital representatives met to discuss how to phase out the FAMU. President Gore and members of his administration were not invited. There is evidence to show that Gore felt that the hospital was a liability that consumed too large a proportion of the university’s budget. The hospital was serving indigent blacks in the community and money was being taken from students to pay for the health care of non-students. Reasons published in the local newspaper, the Tallahassee Democrat, was that the school was closing because of inefficiencies and poor equipment. None of that was true, but the public believed it. It was later written by the subsequent President, Dr. Benjamin Perry, that the State withdrew its support of the FAMU Hospital because of the position that it should not subsidize the health needs of Leon County and the City of Tallahassee.
  • FAMC established the Division of Law in 1951. A separate School of Law was established 1954 where graduates could qualify for the Florida Bar. A Law wing was added to the Coleman Library. The law school was accredited by the American Bar Association in 1955. The law school was originally supported by the State to avoid integration of the law school at the University of Florida. Rather than integrate the FAMU Law School, steps were taken to close FAMU’s law school and create an integrated program at Florida State University. In 1963 a law suit was filed by four persons, one of whom was black, demanding that the FAMU Law School be closed. The court in 1968 dismissed the law suit and stated further that the FAMU School of Law was entitled to the same classification as the University of Florida law school. The Board of Control in 1966 mandated that FAMU not accept any more freshmen into its law school. Thus, toward the end of Gore’s tenure efforts continued behind the scenes to close the FAMU law school and raise an integrated program at FSU.
  • In 1951 the name of the school was officially changed through legislation from the Florida Agricultural and Mechanical College for Negroes to the Florida Agricultural and Mechanical College. Two years later in 1953, the school was recognized as Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University.
  • In 1952 a campus police force was created and the School of Pharmacy established. A five year pharmacy program started in 1957.
  • Before 1953, 129 students were awarded Master’s Degrees. The Graduate School was established in 1953. Between 1953 and 1960, 797 Master’s Degrees were awarded.
  • While FAMU saw great growth in Gore’s first eight years, it was also beginning to experience student activism, racial unrest and conflict. In 1956 FAMU students staged a successful bus boycott of the City of Tallahassee. In 1959 student demonstrations forced the state attorney to seek and obtain life sentences for four white men who raped a FAMU student. In 1960 there were student sit-ins and in the 1962/1963 school year 200 students were detained while picketing theatres.
  • With Supreme Court decisions denouncing racial segregation, public black schools and junior colleges were phased out at a rapid pace to achieve integration. Neyland writes that desegregation and integration was never considered a two-way street and little was done to encourage whites to enter black institutions. It followed then that in 1964 a state official first drafted a plan to abolish FAMU. Though this hastened plan was not acted on, in 1967 a Senate subcommittee demanded a cost saving program be mandated to merge FAMU with Florida State, calling FAMU a “monument to racial separation.” The aggressive political activity of faculty, students, alumni, and supporters joined the “Save FAMU” campaign sullied by the cry for a merger.
    University Presidents at Board of Control meeting discussing impact of higher admission standards and expanding junior colleges. From left are: Presidents Dr. Gordon W. Blackwell, Florida State University; Dr. John Allen, University of South Florida; Dr. J. Wayne Reitz, University of Florida, and Dr. George W. Gore, Jr Courtesy State Archives of Florida

    University Presidents at Board of Control meeting discussing impact of higher admission standards and expanding junior colleges. From left are: Presidents Dr. Gordon W. Blackwell, Florida State University; Dr. John Allen, University of South Florida; Dr. J. Wayne Reitz, University of Florida, and Dr. George W. Gore, Jr
    Courtesy State Archives of Florida

  • While merger talks were prevalent and efforts made to integrate white institutions, the Board of Control mandated that FAMU not accept white applicants to the School of Law. Subsequently, the Board required that all Law School applications to FAMU by white students be submitted to the Board for resolution. The Board then summarily rejected each application. In the same atmosphere, in 1966, the Tallahassee Community College was created to accommodate white students who were not admitted to Florida State and didn’t want to attend (integrate) FAMU.
  • Gore resigned in 1968 and returned to his native home of Nashville, Tennessee. He would go on to consult and serve as acting president for a year at Fisk University.

RESOURCES

  1. the history of alpha kappa mu. Alpha Kappa Mu Honor Society. Retrieved from http://www.alphakappamu.org/history.html on June 3, 2016.
  2. Neyland, L. W. (1987). Florida agricultural and mechanical university: a centennial history (1887-1987). Revised and expanded from 1963 edition co-authored with John W. Riley. The Florida A&M University Foundation, Inc, Tallahassee, Florida.
  3. Neyland, L. W. (2001). Florida agricultural and mechanical university: sixteen years of excellence with caring (1985-2001). Florida A&M University Foundation, Inc, Tallahassee, Florida.

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