University of Georgia President Jere W. Morehead with Mary Frances Early after her portrait was unveiled.
Photo: Andrew Davis Tucker/Andrew Davis Tucker
Photo: Andrew Davis Tucker/Andrew Davis Tucker

Georgia board approves naming UGA school after first black graduate

The Georgia Board of Regents on Wednesday approved a request from the University of Georgia to name its College of Education after Mary Frances Early, its first African American graduate.

Early arrived at UGA in the summer of 1961, a few months after Charlayne Hunter-Gault and Hamilton Holmes became the first African American students to enroll there. She became the first African American to earn a degree from the University of Georgia when she graduated on Aug. 16, 1962, with a master’s degree in music education. She returned in 1964 to continue her education, earning a Specialist in Education degree in 1967.

Copy of an article about Mary Frances Early graduating from UGA. Though she rarely is mentioned in the history books, Early is actually the first black graduate of the University of Georgia, before Charlayne Hunter Gault and Hamilton Holmes. Now UGA is giving her an honorary degree to acknowledge this fact.
Photo: Phil Skinner/AJC

Early became a music teacher in the Atlanta Public Schools system and eventually promoted to music director of the entire school system. She retired in 1994 after working for 37 years in public schools. She later taught at Morehouse College, Spelman College and Clark Atlanta University as head of the music department.

“This is a fabulous day for the University of Georgia,” College of Education Dean Denise Spangler said in an interview after Wednesday’s vote.

Mary Frances Early, who was the first African-American to graduate from the University of Georgia, plays piano at her mother's Atlanta home before reporting to the University of Georgia in the summer of 1961.
Photo: Courtesy University of Georgia

UGA will officially unveil the college’s new name on Feb. 1, 2020 to coincide with the start of Black History Month, Spangler said.

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