Founders remembered by descendants and community
Robin Washington Banks addresses participants during the ceremony.
TUSKEGEE, Ala. (July 4, 2013) — The Tuskegee community marked America’s independence and the founding of the university during two graveside ceremonies today. About 20 people braved rain and wind to join descendants of Tuskegee’s founders, Booker T. Washington and Lewis Adams, for two wreath laying ceremonies.
The crowd gathered under the canopy of the Kellogg Hotel and Conference Center at Tuskegee University for remarks, prayers and songs. Rev. Charles Michael Adams, one of Lewis Adams’ descendants, led the prayers for the event.
“This meek and humble pioneer accepted the charge to become the first president of this mighty institution that has produced thousands and thousands of professionals throughout this nation and abroad,” Adams said of Booker T. Washington.
Alumna and Washington’s great granddaughter, Robin Washington Banks, read a passage from “Up From Slavery” and shared some history about the university’s humble beginnings and subsequent success.
“When he passed away in November, 1915, Booker left an institution with an endowment of approximately $2 million and property worth over $1.5 million and an annual budget of nearly $300,000,” Washington Banks said. “…To God be the glory!”
The event also drew several representatives from the city and state government who shared remarks and called for larger and more festive future recognition events for Tuskegee’s two founders.
During remarks, Tamara Lee, university attorney and associate vice president for legal affairs, spoke about Tuskegee’s current successes such as recent construction projects and an increased appropriation from the State of Alabama.
“We have grown from a $2,000 appropriation that they gave back [in 1881] to over $9 million today,” Lee said.
Later, a wreath of yellow and red flowers was placed on Washington’s grave and the “Lifting the Veil of Ignorance” statue. Afterward, there was a motorcade to Ashdale Cemetery in the City of Tuskegee to honor Lewis Adams at his grave site. It was Adams who wanted to establish a school in the city and brought Booker T. Washington here to create the institution. Adams, the university’s first lobbyist, also secured the $2,000 appropriation from the state to pay teachers’ salaries.
After placing a wreath of red, white and blue flowers at Adams’ grave, participants sang “We Shall Overcome” and Rev. Charles Michael Adams thanked God for his ancestor having the vision to establish a school in the area. He also shared some insight about his relative’s character during his prayer.
“Mr. Adams was firm, fair and friendly,” Rev. Charles Michael Adams said. “He was the epitome of a true leader and he cared for all people from all walks of life.”
©Tuskegee University 2013
Rev. Charles Michael Adams reads a prayer dedicated to Tuskegee's founders.