Morehouse president memorialized for his efforts to help students

At the beginning of the service, Morehouse College’s Dean of the Chapel, the Rev. Lawrence Edward Carter Sr., starts the event with a prayer. Chad Rhym/ chad.rhym@ajc.com

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At the beginning of the service, Morehouse College’s Dean of the Chapel, the Rev. Lawrence Edward Carter Sr., starts the event with a prayer. Chad Rhym/ chad.rhym@ajc.com

Bill Taggart, the interim president of Morehouse College, was memorialized Friday for his many roles such as a father, son, banker, business leader, academic, and even DJ.

Hundreds of mourners gathered at the college Friday to "celebrate, remember and give thanks" to Taggart, 55, who died on June 8 from an aneurysm in his Atlanta home.

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Interim Morehouse College president Bill Taggart has died, officials announced Thursday.

Taggart, also a longtime business and civic leader, held the college post just 61 days, but was remembered for his effort to bring Morehouse together after a tumultuous school year that included the removal of its prior president and board leadership.

Board members said Friday they would name an interim president within weeks and complete a search for a permanent president “as soon as we can,” said board secretary Harold Martin Jr.

“Morehouse is strong,” said acting president Michael Hodge. “Morehouse will continue to do what it is doing, teaching young, black, African-American men.”

Some Morehouse leaders had hoped Taggart would take the job. Taggart had planned a retreat with Morehouse leaders that was scheduled for the weekend after he died. Many talked about his accomplishments in his brief tenure, such as improving fundraising efforts and increasing the development staff.

“My greatest regret is we didn’t get to see what more he could have done at Morehouse,” said faculty trustee Ron Thomas.

Black bunting was draped over a giant chair in the center of the stage for Taggart during the two-hour service at the Martin Luther King Jr. International Chapel. Taggart was remembered for his willingness to listen, his humility and his cool demeanor. Nicknames were shared. “Uncle Bill.” “Dolla’ Bill.” “President Kicks,” by students for his propensity for wearing sneakers with suits.

A 28-page program included letters of condolence from Gov. Nathan Deal, Mayor Kasim Reed and former President Jimmy Carter. The program included a letter from his daughter, Elizabeth, 13, who said “he challenged myself and others to do what we thought we couldn’t.”

Although Taggart earned his bachelor’s degree from Howard University, speakers talked about his desire to help Morehouse students and his embodiment of the college’s mission.

“Bill always said he wasn’t a Morehouse Man, but truly he was,” said former board chairman Robert Davidson.