Early honored for being first black to earn a degree at UGA | Community Spirit
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Early honored for being first black to earn a degree at UGA
ATHENS -- (Athens Banner Herald) Mary Frances Early
was so happy Monday morning that she
burst into song.
Mary Frances Early
meets J.J. Harris Elementary School
student Keshundra Glenn on Monday during a reception at J.J. Harris
in Early's honor.
"What the world needs now, is love, sweet love.
That's the only thing there's just too little of," Early
sang in her
clear, sweet voice - right in the middle of her
speech to more than 500 people attending the annual Freedom Breakfast at the University of Georgia's
Tate Student Center.
Early, UGA's first black graduate, gave the keynote address Tuesday morning, then spent part of the afternoon at J.J. Harris Elementary School for a community reception in her honor - where she explained why she sang.
"I didn't plan to sing that little portion of the song," said Early, who enrolled as UGA's first black graduate student in 1961 and was the first black person to graduate from the university when she earned her master's degree in music education in 1962.
said, "I was so emotional.
Early had a long and distinguished career in music education after graduating from UGA - as a teacher and administrator for 37 years in the Atlanta public school system, and later as head of the music department at Clark Atlanta University.
was happy Monday because of the honor and recognition she
got as a pioneer in the desegregation of the university.
also was sad as she
thought of King, whom she
knew, and how his
life ended too soon, cut short by an assassin's bullet.
"This has been a most extraordinary day for me," she
"It took 38 years for the University of Georgia
to even recognize I was here, but Lord, since they started, it's like fast-forward."
morning talk, Early
recalled a time when UGA
was not so welcoming.
Just days after the university's first two black students, Hamilton Holmes and Charlayne Hunter (now Hunter-Gault) set foot on campus, Early
decided to support them by transferring to UGA
from graduate school at the University of Michigan
At one point that summer, a group of jeering students - young white men - threw rocks at her
When one of the rocks hit her
in the shoulder, she
threw it back at them.
tried even harder after that to act as King taught, with love and without violence.
"We have come a long way since 1961," Early
"You have done a superb job and have brought the University of Georgia
closer to the American dream."
But UGA and the nation still haven't fulfilled King's vision, she said.
"It is our challenge - no, our responsibility - to make the dream a complete reality," she