UGA plans to name education school after first African American grad 

Mary Frances Early has been a trailblazer several times at the University of Georgia.

In 1962, she became the first African American to graduate from the school. Last year, she received the university’s highest honor, the President’s Medal.

On Thursday, UGA announced plans to name its College of Education after Early. The proposal, which must be approved by the state’s Board of Regents, would make Early the first African American to have a school or college named after her by the university.

“The proposed naming of the College of Education in honor of Mary Frances Early is a tribute not only to her trailblazing integration of UGA in the 1960s but also to her lifetime of accomplishment and service to others as a music educator,” College of Education Dean Denise A. Spangler said in a news release.

Gifts benefiting the College of Education may be dedicated in Early’s honor to go toward the proposed naming. A lead gift of $200,000 to the campaign already has been made by UGA President Jere W. Morehead from the President’s Venture Fund which, when matched by the UGA Foundation, will be used to create four new $100,000 Georgia Commitment Scholarships for students with financial need, the university said. The scholarships will be awarded with a preference for students who intend to pursue majors in the College of Education or music education majors. 

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: HANDOUT/courtesy University of Georgia

“I am deeply honored because I spent my entire career in education, and I never dreamed that I would receive such an incredible recognition from the University of Georgia,” said Early. 

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.

> RELATED: Mary Frances Early, first black graduate, honored at UGA

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.

May 7, 2013-DECATUR: 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.PHIL SKINNER / PSKINNER@AJC.COM editor's note: CQ
Photo: Phil Skinner

Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.

Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.