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‘A Great Day for Ray’

The groundbreaking for the
Morehouse College Center for the Arts
is the realized vision of music genius Ray Charles

By Vickie G. Hampton

According to his good friend, music mogul Quincy Jones, Ray Charles was blind only when he was in the presence of pretty girls—bumping into things to draw their attention and sympathy. Any other time, the fiercely independent music genius shopped, traveled, even flew a fleet of his own planes, like a man possessing 20/20 sight.

As astounding as this may sound, turns out his vision was even more impressive. On Friday, May 18, Morehouse held a groundbreaking for its Center for the Arts, with its centerpiece performing hall being named the Ray Charles Performing Arts Center. The $20 million, 76,000-square-foot facility is the realization of Charles’ vision to find, educate and inspire the next generation of music pioneers.

“My only regret is that [Charles] is not here to share this moment, because it was his vision that brought this magnificent facility in the realm of reality,” said Dr. Uzee Brown Jr. ’72, chairman of the Department of Music.

Brown also evoked the memories of Wendell Whalem and Kempel Harrell, two Morehouse music giants who also had dreamed of a facility like the one being proposed.

The arts at Morehouse “will finally have a home of their own with a firm foundation … so that musical minds can grow,” said Brown.

The facility will be located on the corner of Lowery Boulevard and West End Avenue, anchoring the southern expansion of the campus. It’s location on the edge of campus is by design, according to President Walter E. Massey ’58.

“The center could have been in the middle of campus separated from the community, but one thing that was important to Ray Charles and Joes Adams [president of Ray Charles Enterprises] is that it would be available to the community,” he explained.

An educational component to the building, the Morehouse Music Education Building, will provide instructional, rehearsal and additional performance spaces, as well as classrooms, practice rooms, faculty studios, departmental offices and storage areas for the music department.

Besides Ray Charles, other major donors to the center are the Woodruff Foundation ($4 million), Joe Adams ($1 million), Eugene Mitchell ($1 million) and David Geffen ($500,000).

By the time Jones, Adams, President Massey, Brown, and other city officials and college administrators turned over the soil to symbolically break ground for the much heralded building, the spirit of Ray Charles had been unearthed to witness the birth of his vision.

“It’s a great day for Ray – and Ray is with us,” said Adams.

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