HORACE T. WARD ’49
Georgia’s First Black Federal Judge Broke Down Legal and Political Barriers By ADD SEYMOUR JR.
HEN THE GEORGIA NAACP was looking for someone to break the color barrier at the University of Georgia’s law school in 1950, they looked to a young Morehouse graduate named Horace Taliaferro Ward. Ward had just graduated from Morehouse in 1949 and finished graduate school at Atlanta University. The bright young man from LaGrange, Ga., knew there was at least one African American practicing law in the state and wanted to be the next. He was never admitted to the University of Georgia law school, but Ward, who died on April 23, fought to make sure that color barrier was eventually broken. Ward’s UGA law school application triggered a long court battle, as he would have become the first African American to attend UGA. Georgia officials offered Ward out-of-state tuition, but he stood firm. His case was delayed for years, giving Ward time to serve his country in the U.S. Army. Not willing to wait, he enrolled in Northwestern University’s law school, which served as the state of Georgia’s reasoning to dismiss the case. Ward eventually earned his law degree at Northwestern University. But he helped break down the doors of segregation at UGA as part of the legal team that successfully fought to get Hamilton E. Holmes and Charlayne Hunter admitted as UGA’s first African American students in 1961. Ward practiced law in the early 1960s before becoming Georgia’s second African American since Reconstruction to serve in the Georgia State Senate. The first was his Morehouse classmate, Leroy Johnson ’49.
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Ward served in the Georgia legislature from 1965-1974. During that time he was also deputy city attorney for the city of Atlanta and later, was the assistant county attorney for Fulton County, Ga.. He was appointed as a Fulton County civil court judge in 1974 and then to the Georgia Superior Court in 1977. Ward again made history when President Jimmy Carter appointed him to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, making him the first African American to sit on the Georgia federal bench. And righting things from decades earlier, the University of Georgia awarded Ward an honorary law degree in 2014, with UGA President Jere Morehead saying Ward made “substantial contributions to our university community.” “Judge Ward was a Morehouse Man in every sense,” said Morehouse President John Silvanus Wilson Jr. ’79. “Our students and alumni strive to live consequential lives that make a difference in our world. I am proud to say that Horace T. Ward did that and so much more. He will be missed and his legacy will live on.”
Grover C. Dye Sr. ’41 passed away August 17, 2015, at the age of 96 in Oakland, Calif. His family asks that donations be made in his honor to Morehouse College’s Office of Alumni Relations; to the Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery, Ala; or to any charity of your choice. Robert S. Kennon ’47 passed away on March 12, 2016, at the age of 93. Kennon earned his bachelor’s degree in business administration from Morehouse and went on to earn three master’s degrees. Kennon spent 12 years teaching 5th and 6th grade math in Detroit before joining the Michigan Department of Education in 1967. He became a supervisor in the Vocational Education Section, opening the door to hiring minorities, women, the physically disabled and non-English speaking persons. Kennon helped establish the Coalition of Community Concerns in an effort to forge a political alliance between the black, Hispanic and labor communities and to improve the relationship between the community and the Lansing Police Department. Edward R. McDonnell Sr. ’50 passed away Aug. 30, 2015. Calvin C. Crawford ’51 passed away Nov. 18. 2015. He taught at Wrens High School in Wrens, Ga., and then spent 30 years in the Reidsville City School System. Crawford served on several city boards and was the recipient of the Zion Baptist Church’s 2003 Community Service Award. Howard Hancock ’54 passed away January 10, 2016. Hancock was a member of the Morehouse College Glee Club, sang in the Morehouse College–Spelman College Chorus, and acted in the Baldwin Burrough’s Thespian Corps.