By Kara Walker
The four living chairmen emeriti of the Morehouse College Board of Trustees were recently honored for their leadership and dedication to the College.
Robert C. Davidson, Jr. ’67, the Rev. Otis Moss, Jr. ’56, Willie “Flash” Davis ’56, and James L. Hudson ’61 were recognized during the College’s historic 133rd Commencement in the Martin Luther King Jr. International Chapel in May.
“To symbolize the theme of our 150th anniversary, “A House United,” we have chosen to honor our four living trustee emeriti,” said current Board Chairman Willie Woods ’85.
The four esteemed chairmen emeriti were greeted with applause for their record of service. They were each presented with a special Black academic chair, a Sesquicentennial medallion marking the College’s 150th Anniversary, and a certificate sanctioning the conferral of the title, “Chairman Emeritus.”
The honorees are:
- Davidson, board chair from 2010 to 2017, was the first African American to serve as chairman of the Board of Trustees at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California. He retired as CEO of Surface Protection Industries, one of California’s top African American-owned manufacturing companies, in 2007 after founding the company in 1978. Davidson has served on boards for organizations such as Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Jacobs Engineering Group, the White House Fellows Commission, and Broadway Federal Bank. Among his many honors are the Bennie Leadership Award; Outstanding Entrepreneur of the Year from the National Association of Investment Companies; and the Black Businessman of the Year from the L.A. chapter of the Black MBA Association. The presidential residence at Morehouse College is named in his honor.
- Davis, who got his nick-name “Flash” for his record as a star football and track athlete, led the board from 2006 to 2010. A prominent Boston attorney, Davis is the founding partner of the firm Davis, Robinson, & Molloy. He also served as an Assistant Attorney General, an Assistant U.S. Attorney, and was the first magistrate judge in the U.S. District Court for the Massachusetts District. Davis was honored with the College’s 2003 Bennie Trail-blazer Award and a Presidential Award of Distinction in 1999. He is also a member of the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Hall of Fame. He received the College’s honorary Doctor of Laws degree during the 2011 Commencement.
- Known for his booming voice and soaring sermons, Rev. Moss was board chair from the mid-1990s until 2006. He spent 33 years as senior pastor of Cleveland’s Olivet Institutional Baptist Church, retiring in 2008. Ebony magazine twice named him as one of America’s Greatest Black Preachers, while media mogul Oprah Winfrey has called him her spiritual mentor.
Rev. Moss also co-pastored Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church with Martin Luther King Sr. Rev. Moss was a board member and regional director of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference during the civil rights movement. He worked directly with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. ’48. Rev. Moss was inducted into the International Walk of Fame in Atlanta and the Ohio Civil Rights Hall of Fame. The Otis Moss Jr. Residential Suites are named in his honor, as is the College’s annual Otis Moss Jr. Oratorical Contest.
- Hudson, one of Washington D.C.’s most influential attorneys, led the board during a period in which the College’s enrollment rose from 1,500 to nearly 2,400 while the endowment nearly tripled. After leaving the College in 1994, Hudson served on boards for the National Capital Revitalization, the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, the National Mentoring Partnership, and the Smithsonian Museum of African Art. In 2009, President Barack Obama appointed Hudson U.S. Executive Director of the European Bank of Reconstruction and Development. The Bank is the largest single investor in Central, Southern, and Eastern Europe, and Central Asia. Hudson also was a senior partner at Hudson, Leftwich & Davenport where he served as the special legislative counsel for the cities of Detroit, New Orleans, Oakland and Kansas City.
Speaking for the four men during Commencement, Davidson said the honor was even more special as it comes 50 years after Benjamin E. Mays’ Centennial Commencement address; the 50th anniversary of the installation of Hugh Gloster ’31 as Morehouse president; and the 94th anniversary of the death of the College’s founder, William Jefferson White. (Davidson was also celebrating his 50th anniversary as a Morehouse College alumnus.)
And to top off the excitement, Davidson and his wife, Faye, also were honored with a new oil portrait that now hangs in the Chapel’s International Hall of Honor.
“The significance of this honor that you have bestowed upon us today cannot be determined by scales or by yardsticks, because its enduring value to us is immeasurable,” he said.
Frederick Douglass’s famous 1852 Independence Day
death to me. This Fourth of July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice, I must mourn. To drag a man in fetters into the grand illuminated temple of liberty, and call upon him to join you in joyous anthems, were inhuman mockery and sacrilegious irony. Do you mean, citizens, to mock me, by asking me to speak today? What, to the American slave, is your Fourth of July? I answer: a day that reveals to him, more than all other days of the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is a constant victim. To him, your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciation of tyrants, brass fronted impudence; your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanksgivings, with all your religious parade and solemnity, are, to Him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy—a thin veil to cover up crimes that would disgrace a nation of savages. There is not a nation of the earth guilty of practices more shocking and bloody than are the people of these United States at this very hour. At a time like this, scorching irony, not convincing argument, is needed. O! had I the ability, and could reach the nation’s ear, I would, today, pour forth a stream, a fiery stream of biting ridicule, blasting reproach, withering sarcasm, and stern rebuke. For it is not light that is needed, but fire; it is not the gentle shower, but thunder. We need the storm, the whirlwind, the earthquake. The feeling of the nation must be quickened; the conscience of the nation must be roused; the propriety of the nation must be startled; the hypocrisy of the nation must be exposed; and the crimes against God and man must be proclaimed and denounced. This reading of Frederick Douglass’s famous 1852 Independence Day address in Rochester, N.Y. was part of a performance of Howard Zinn’s Voices of a People’s History of the United States by James Earl Jones.