Acclaimed writer and alumnus, Albert Murray, dies


HARLEM, N.Y. (August 20, 2013) — Albert Murray, a Tuskegee alumnus as well as a famed author and scholar, died Sunday at his home in Harlem. Murray, 97, was also a former Tuskegee professor and head of the ROTC program. 

Murray speaking

Murray with his wife, Mozelle Menefee Murray, whom he married in Tuskegee in 1941. Mrs. Murray is a 1943 alumna of Tuskegee.

Albert Murray yearbook picture

Acclaimed writer and alumnus Albert Murray received the Booker T. Washington Legacy Award from Tuskegee University President Gilbert L. Rochon at Murray's home in Harlem, N.Y.

Murray, a native of Nokomis, Ala., was a literary and jazz critic, novelist, and biographer. He received a bachelor’s degree from Tuskegee Institute (now Tuskegee University) in 1939. He received his master’s degree in literature from New York University in 1948. Tuskegee University President Gilbert L. Rochon presented Murray with the Booker T. Washington Legacy Award at his home in 2011.

Murray taught English and American literature, and directed theater at Tuskegee. After the outbreak of World War II, he entered the U.S. Army Air Corps in 1943 and served until 1946. After the war, he transferred to the U.S. Air Force Reserve and returned to teach at Tuskegee, where he also served as head of the ROTC program for four years. He retired from the Air Force with the rank of major in 1962. He then moved to New York to settle into a writing career.

Life after Tuskegee

Murray, who had a mutually influential friendship with another Tuskegee alum, Ralph Ellison, published his first book, “The Omni-Americans” in 1970. He published several more books including four where the main character, Scooter, was based on his life. “The Magic Keys,” published in 2005, was the last of these autobiographically inspired novels. 

In his writings, Murray presented an authentic analysis of African-American life as he knew and lived it. He neither ignored nor apologized for the negative elements that caused people to define blacks as social problems— elements such as the poverty and crime resulting from a long tradition of slavery, segregation, discrimination and racism. However, he did strongly challenge the negative, oversimplified images that both blacks and whites represented as the common experience of all black Americans.

Murray had a distinguished career as a writer, teacher, and lecturer at universities that included Colgate University, the University of Massachusetts, and the University of Berlin. Also, the Houghton Library of Harvard University purchased Murray’s papers.

At its October 2004 meeting, the Tuskegee University Board of Trustees approved the recommendation to place the donated books and writings of Murray in the Rare Book Room of the Ford Motor Company Library under the name of “The Albert Murray Collection.” 

Murray was one of the original founders and a board member of Jazz at Lincoln Center. He received numerous honors, including the Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Book Critics Circle, membership in the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the DuBois Medal from the W.E.B. DuBois Institute for African and African-American Research at Harvard University.

A memorial service for Murray will be held on September 10, 2013 at 1:00 p.m. at the Jazz-at-Lincoln Center, Allen Room, 2nd floor, 61st Street, Columbus Circle, New York City.

© 2013 Tuskegee University

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