Founded in 1867 in the basement of Springfield Baptist Church in Augusta, Ga., by the Rev. William Jefferson White, with the encouragement of former slave the Rev. Richard C. Coulter and the Rev. Edmund Turney of the National Theological Institute, Morehouse College has had a 150-year legacy of producing educated men and global leaders.
Starting as Augusta Institute under the first president, Joseph T. Robert, the institution was created to educate black men for careers in ministry and teaching. At the urging of the Rev. Frank Quarles, the school moved to Atlanta’s Friendship Baptist Church in 1879 and changed its name to the Atlanta Baptist Seminary. The Seminary moved to downtown Atlanta, and then soon after to a former Civil War battleground site in Atlanta’s West End under President Samuel Graves in 1885. By 1897 under President George Sale, the institution became Atlanta Baptist College.
Atlanta Baptist College expanded its curriculum and established a tradition of educating leaders for all American life. During the tenure of the College’s first African American president, John Hope, the College was renamed Morehouse College in 1913, in honor of Henry L. Morehouse, the corresponding secretary of the National Baptist Home Mission Society. Samuel Archer lead the College as president during the Great Depression, giving the College’s its adopted colors of maroon and white.
Beginning in the 1940s, the College’s international reputation in scholarship, leadership and service began to flourish, particularly as then-president Benjamin E. Mays oversaw the increase of faculty members with doctoral degrees, accreditation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, and the establishment of a Phi Beta Kappa chapter.
Under President Hugh M. Gloster, the first alumnus to serve as president, the College expanded its endowment to more than $29 million, completed a $20-million fund-raising campaign and added 12 new campus buildings. The Morehouse School of Medicine was founded during this time, becoming independent in 1981.
During the administration of eighth president, Dr. Leroy Keith Jr., the College’s endowment increased to more than $60 million, with faculty salaries and student scholarships also increasing. Buildings such as the Nabrit-Mapp-McBay Hall and the Thomas Kilgore Jr. Campus Center were constructed and the College produced its first Rhodes Scholar, Nima A. Warfield. The College’s “A Candle in the Dark” Gala was founded in 1989 to raise scholarship funds during this time.
Ninth president Dr. Walter E. Massey ushered in a 21-century approach to learning, as his vision was for the College to become the nation’s best liberal arts college. Morehouse expanded its dual-degree program in natural sciences; launched the Center for Excellence in Science, Engineering and Mathematics; established a new African American studies program; and a Center for International Studies named for former United Nations Ambassador Andrew Young.
The Davidson House Center for Excellence, the president’s official residence and a mini-conference center, was constructed during this time, as was The Leadership Center; the John H. Hopps Technology Tower.
Two more students became Rhodes Scholars: Chris Elders in 2002 and Oluwabusayo “Tope” Folarin in 2004.
By June 2006, the College successfully completed its most ambitious capital campaign, raising a record $112 million, exceeding the Campaign’s goal of $105 million. The same year, Morehouse became the custodian of the Morehouse College Martin Luther King Jr. Collection, more than 13,000 hand-written notes, sermons, letters, books and other artifacts belonging to King, the College’s most noted alumnus.
Dr. Robert M. Franklin Jr. became president in 2007 and led the institution forward with his vision of the “Morehouse Renaissance,” further elevating public confidence in the College’s stature as a premier institution providing quality education and enhancing institution’s intellectual and moral dimension. He accomplished this in part by establishing the “Five Wells,” which was about developing men of Morehouse with social conscience and global perspective who were well-read, well-spoken, well-traveled, well-dressed, and well-balanced.
Franklin oversaw the completion of a $20-million project started by Massey, the Ray Charles Performing Arts Center and Music Academic Building, a facility named after the late legendary musician. He also led cultivation efforts that increased the total number of new donors at the College by 4,500. The College generated more than $68 million in institutional funds and $60 million in restricted funds from federal sources, including Congressional appropriations and competitive federal grants.
In 2013, Dr. John Silvanus Wilson Jr. was named the College’s 11th president. He and his team were champions of STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics) initiatives and significantly increased the College’s private gifts, grants and contracts. During his tenure, computer science major Prince Abudu became the College’s fourth Rhodes Scholar.
Wilson played a pivotal role in bringing President Barack Obama to Morehouse as the 2013 Commencement speaker and in hosting Vice President Joseph Biden in 2015.
William James Taggart assumed the role of interim president of the College in 2017 after serving as chief operating officer since 2015. A results-driven leader in the private and public sectors, Taggart had more than 30 years of experience with Fortune 500 companies, higher education, and federal agencies. Tragically, just two months after his appointment, Taggart suddenly passed away in June 2017.
Harold Martin Jr. was appointed interim president in June 2017, becoming the youngest person to lead the College since 1913. The former board secretary for the Morehouse College Board of Trustees, Martin will head the College until a permanent president is chosen.
Martin has an extensive background in advising senior executives at higher education institutions and Fortune 500 companies. A summa cum laude graduate and a member of Phi Beta Kappa, Martin is a graduate of the Yale Law School. He was associate partner at McKinsey & Company, an international management consulting firm where he helped academic institutions solve complex strategic, financial, and organizational challenges. He led the firm’s Higher Education Practice which studied higher education trends and best practices by leading colleges and universities. Since leaving the firm in 2014, Martin has built a successful, independent consulting practice and private investment firm.
Martin is building on the momentum started by Taggart in working with Morehouse’s Board, students, parents, faculty, staff, alumni and donors to solidify the College’s position as an academic leader and to expand giving at the College. His leadership allows Morehouse to continue its long and unique history of developing men with disciplined minds who lead lives of leadership and service to students now representing 35 states and 17 countries.