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Graduates have been social change activists, artists, athletes, politicians, authors, researchers and faith leaders. Many graduates have been the “firsts” in their profession or in their elected roles. Our graduates have met Presidents, important leaders like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and others. They’ve taken the education and knowledge we have provided and have helped build a more meaningful and just world.    

From our early days, our alumni have made a made an impact. These include: (LINK AS PDF)

  • Reverend C.L. Franklin (attendee) was a faith leader known as the "Million-Dollar Voice," as he was one of the first ministers to break into the record industry. He toured frequently with established gospel singers, often bringing his now-famous daughter, Aretha.

  • Gilbert E. Patterson (attendee) was a religious leader, civil rights activist and recording artist who was nominated for two Grammy Awards.  Bishop Patterson also served on the strategy team that invited Martin Luther King, Jr. to Memphis for the Sanitation Worker’s strike.  After his passing, the United States Senate passed a resolution celebrating his life.

  • Dr. Theodore McLemore (LeMoyne College, 1921):  Dr. McLemore was a College Trustee and the longest serving official of any college or university in the country; he served as a College Trustee for 60 years of service.

  • Juanita Williamson, Ph.D. (LeMoyne College, 1938) was a ground-breaking academic, specializing in linguistics with a focus on African-American speech patterns in the South. Dr. Williamson gained national recognition for her work, securing Rockefeller and Ford Foundation grants to carry out her research.
  • Benjamin Lawson Hooks (LeMoyne College, 1945) led the team of lawyers that defended the LeMoyne and Owen College students arrested during the sit-ins at Memphis public libraries; he was later appointed the first African-American criminal court judge in Tennessee history.  Mr. Hooks received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Bush in 2007.

  • Dr. C. Eric Lincoln (LeMoyne College, 1947) was an academic and founding president of the Black Academy of Letters. Dr. Lincoln wrote or edited more than 20 books, although he is best known as a distinguished scholar on the African-American religious experience.  In 1990, Dr. Lincoln was cited by Pope John Paul II for ''scholarly service to the church.”

  • Lloyd Barbee (LeMoyne College, 1949) was known for his efforts to end housing discrimination and the advancement of human and civil rights and served in the Wisconsin State Assembly.

  • Velma Lois Jones (LeMoyne College, 1952) recruited for the demonstrations that brought Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to Memphis.  She was elected President of the Tennessee Education Association (the first African-American classroom teacher); in 2012, President Barack Obama presented her with the Drum Major for Service award.

  • Marion Barry (LeMoyne College, 1958) began his political career through the civil rights movement, participating in Nashville sit-ins and other events; he was later elected the first chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee.  Mr. Barry served on the Washington, D.C. City Council and was elected Mayor from 1979 to 1991 and 1995 to 1999.

  • Gloria Wade-Gayles, Ph.D. (LeMoyne College, 1959) is a renowned author of six books and numerous journal articles.

  • Dr. George Grant (Owen College, 1959) served as part of a committee who wrote “The Legacy of Owen College: 1954-1968.” His company, GrantHouse Publishers published the book in 2014, Owen College’s 60th anniversary.

  • Johnnie B. Watson (LeMoyne College, 1960) began his life-long journey in education at LeMoyne-Owen College. He served professional roles at the Memphis City Schools, Rhodes College and was installed as President of LeMoyne-Owen College as the 11th President --- the first alumnus installed in the College’s history.
  • Sara Lewis (LeMoyne College, 1961) served the Memphis City Schools as teacher, principal, and associate superintendent in the district before joining the Memphis City School Board in 1992.  She was the first African-American woman to be elected at large to the Board role.
  • Johnnie Turner (LeMoyne College, 1962) was an educator with the Memphis City Schools and is also a past Executive Director of the Memphis NAACP. She was appointed to the Tennessee House of Representatives in January 2010 after the passing of her husband, State Representative Larry Turner.

  • W.W. Herenton (LeMoyne College, 1963) served as the superintendent of Memphis City Schools for twelve years, and later was elected in 1991 as the first African-American mayor of Memphis, where he was re-elected for five terms.

  • Dr. Clenora Hudson-Weems (LeMoyne College, 1967) is a producer, film writer, author and a recipient of a number of honors and awards, including Ford and National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowships. She coined the term “Africana Womanism,” an ideology applicable to all women of African descent.

  • David “Smokey” Gaines (LeMoyne College, 1968) played basketball for the Kentucky Colonels and the Harlem Globetrotters; he was the 24th person to receive the Globetrotters’ “Legends” Award. He later coached for at the University of Detroit, San Diego State and LeMoyne-Owen College.

  • Myron Lowery (LeMoyne College, 1968) has had a successful career as a television news anchor, served on the Memphis City Council and served in board roles in national organizations. In 1996, he was a speaker at the Democratic National Convention; the national Jaycees later honored him as one of "Ten Outstanding Young Men in America."

  • Deborah Harmon Hines, Ph.D. (LeMoyne-Owen College, 1970) serves as the Vice Provost at University of Massachusetts Medical School; she has worked tirelessly to ensure that minority students have access to the science and technology fields.  Dr. Harmon Hines has received numerous awards, including the 2015 Bruce Alberts Award for Excellence in Science Education.

  • Lois DeBerry (LeMoyne-Owen College, 1971) served in the Tennessee General Assembly and was the first African-American woman elected speaker pro tempore.  She led the establishment of the National Council of Black State Legislators; she also gave a presidential nominating speech for Vice President Al Gore at the 2000 Democratic National Convention.
  • Robert Lipscomb (LeMoyne-Owen College, 1971) has served in City of Memphis leadership roles, including Executive Director of Memphis Housing Authority and Chief Financial Officer. Through his leadership, Memphis received $200+ million in competitive federal grants to aid inner city revitalization; he has been nationally recognized for his housing initiatives.

  • Jerry Dover (LeMoyne-Owen College, 1972) served as point guard for the LeMoyne College Magicians under legendary coach Jerry Johnson. He went on the play for the American Basketball Association’s Memphis Pros; his jersey was retired in the basketball LeMoyne-Owen College Hall of Fame.

  • The Honorable Olly Neal (LeMoyne-Owen College, 1974) served as Arkansas’s first African-American District Prosecuting Attorney. He has also served as chief prosecutor, district prosecuting attorney and Circuit Court Judge.  In 2014, he was inducted into the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame.

  • Lindsey Porter (LeMoyne-Owen College, 1976) was elected Mayor of Highland Park, Michigan, his home town, in 1992. He served three 4 year terms as Mayor and is the only Mayor to be elected 3 consecutive terms.

  • Joe Towns (LeMoyne-Owen College, 1978) has served in the TN House of Representatives, representing a portion of Shelby County (District 84), since 1995. He serves as a member of the following committees: House Education, Calendar & Rules, Commerce committee, Higher Education subcommittee and House Industrial Impact subcommittee.

  • Rosalind E. Hill (LeMoyne-Owen College, 1979) serves as the Deputy Assistant General Counsel in the Division of Operations-Management of the Office of the General Counsel in Washington, where she manages the 32 Regional Offices of the National Labor Relations Board.

  • Larry Miller (LeMoyne-Owen College, 1979) has served in the Tennessee House of Representatives for 15 years; his committee assignments include House Finance Ways and Means Committee; House Rules Committee and the Joint Veteran’s Affairs Committee.

  • Claudine Hester Pine (Owen College, XXXX) was the first female African-American sergeant in the Memphis Police Department; she was later promoted to 30-year Captain - the first African American female to achieve that rank.
  • Phalon R. Jones (Owen College, XXXX) was a saxophonist and founding member of the Memphis-based band, the Bar-Kays. The band earned notoriety with Stax Records, and served as Otis Redding’s back-up band.  In 1967, Mr. Jones, along with Otis Redding and several members of the Bar-Kays, perished in an airplane crash en-route to a concert.

  • Charles Cabbage (Owen College, XXXX) was a community activist and co-founder of The Invaders, a radical black power group. Mr. Cabbage was one of the last people in Memphis to meet Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. before he was assassinated.

  • Ben F. Jones (LeMoyne College, XXXX): Mr. Jones was a prominent Memphis attorney who took on many local civil rights cases. Along with the “The First Five” – composed of H.T. Lockard, Benjamin Hooks, S.A. Wilbun and James Estes – they chartered the Memphis chapter of the National Bar Association, the oldest and largest association of attorneys of color.  The chapter is now named the Ben F. Jones Chapter in his honor.
  • Vince R. Williams (LeMoyne-Owen College, XXXX) began his professional career in corporate America; he was elected Mayor of Union City, GA in 2007.  He is active in both local and national organizations, including National Black Caucus of Local Elected Officials, NAACP and the National League of Cities

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