Tuskegee honors founders on 133rd anniversary of founding


Tuskegee Mayor Johnny Ford, James Arrington of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Tuskegee University president, Dr. Brian L. Johnson, Rev. William C. Lennard of Omega Psi Phi, and Rev. Charles Michael Adams, great grandson of Lewis Adams at the gravesite of Booker T. Washington.

TUSKEGEE, Ala. (July 4, 2014) – With songs of praise and inspirational words, the families of Tuskegee University’s founders and the community united to honor this institution and its forefathers. For the fourth year, wreaths were laid at the gravesites of Lewis Adams and Booker T. Washington today to commemorate the anniversary of the founding of Tuskegee Normal School (now Tuskegee University) on July 4, 1881. Part family reunion and part prayer service, the ceremony was an homage to the faith and legacy of Adams and Washington.

Robin Washington Banks, one of Washington’s great granddaughters, said the university’s reach, nationally and internationally, is so far and vast that this day should always be a celebration for the City of Tuskegee. She also said that the existence of the school was an answer to the prayers of Adams, the former slave and businessman who helped secure the funds and government action to establish the university. 

“These are hallowed grounds,” Washington Banks said about the university. “We come to give God the praise.”

Tuskegee University president, Dr. Brian L. Johnson, expressed his admiration for Washington being a man of faith and action. He said that Tuskegee’s first president laid a path that need only be followed by today’s generation. Johnson also said that he has begun an earnest study of Washington’s works and hopes to do what Washington would have done in the 21st Century. 

“Booker T. Washington’s legacy will not only live on because of what he said, but what he did, ” Johnson said. “We intend to be men of words and deeds, just like our founder.”

City of Tuskegee leaders as well as members from surrounding communities also came to pay their respects to Tuskegee’s founders. City of Tuskegee Mayor Johnny Ford outlined some of the history of Tuskegee’s far-reaching impact into other parts of the country and world. Mayor Pro Tempore Tony Haygood praised the united efforts of the university and community. 

“Our strength is in being together,” Haygood said. “You can have a small beginning, but you don’t stop and you grow.”

Denied education, but founded university

At the gravesite of Lewis Adams at Ashdale Cemetery, Rev. Charles Michael Adams, an Adams great grandson, shared some history about his ancestor and insight about why education was so important to him. The son of a white planter and a slave woman, Lewis Adams was not allowed a formal education. But, using the old school books of his white half-siblings, he taught himself. By the time he was an adult, he could read, write, and speak several languages. He took his love of learning to his church and taught Sunday School classes that included reading, writing and mathematics. 

But, he wanted more for the local blacks who did not have access to formal education. In exchange for securing the black vote for an Alabama Senate candidate, Lewis Adams, a skillful negotiator, got a promise of a $2,000 appropriation to establish a school for blacks. 

“Lewis Adams was a powerful man with a profound dream,” Rev. Charles Michael Adams said.

Robin Washington Banks addresses the audience.

Families of Lewis Adams and Booker T. Washington gather for photo with Dr. Brian Johnson and family.

Families gather at gravesite of Booker T. Washington.

Dr. Brian Johnson addresses the audience.

Attendees and families gather for photo.

Great grandchildren of Lewis Adams adjust wreath at gravesite.

Rev. Charles Michael Adams speaks to audience.

Mayor Johnny Fords addresses concerns of Adams' family.

© 2014 Tuskegee University

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