History of Florida A&M University

Every university has a history, but few have a history as unique and impressive as ours. For more than 130 years, Florida A&M University has served the citizens of the State of Florida and the nation through its provision of preeminent educational programs...programs that were the building blocks of a legacy of academic excellence with caring. FAMU, “Florida’s Opportunity University,” is committed to meeting the challenges and needs of future generations.

 

11 presidents, 7 interim presidents, and 130+ years of excellence

 

 
State Normal College for Colored Students c. 1880s

Taking A Look Back: Our history reaches deep into Florida’s past. 11 presidents, 7 interim presidents, and 130+ years of excellence

  • FAMU President Thomas D. Tucker
  • Our Founding: Thomas & Thomas

    In 1884, Thomas Van Renssaler Gibbs, a Duval County educator, was elected to the Florida legislature. Although his political career ended abruptly because of the resurgence of segregation, Representative Gibbs was successful in orchestrating the passage of House Bill 133 in 1884. This bill established a white normal school in Gainesville and a school for African Americans in Jacksonville. The bill passed, creating both institutions; however, the state decided to relocate the school for African Americans to Tallahassee.

    After the bill’s passage, FAMU was founded on October 3, 1887. It began classes with 15 students and two (2) instructors. Thomas DeSaille Tucker (1887-1901), an attorney from Pensacola, was chosen to be the first president. Former State Representative Gibbs joined Mr. Tucker as the second faculty member.

    In 1891, the College received $7,500 under the Second Morrill Act for agricultural and mechanical arts education. The State Normal College for Colored Students became Florida’s land grant institution for African Americans, and its name was changed to the State Normal and Industrial College for Colored Students.

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  • Becoming An Institution of Higher Education

    In 1905, management of the College was transferred from the Board of Education to the Board of Control. This significant event officially designated the College as an institution of higher education.
    In 1909 the name was changed from The State Normal College for Colored Students to Florida Agricultural and Mechanical College for Negroes (FAMC). The following year, with an enrollment of 317 students, the college awarded its first degrees.

    President Nathan B. Young (1901-1923) directed the growth of the College to a four-year degree-granting institution, despite limited resources, offering the Bachelor of Science degree in education, science, home economics, agriculture and mechanical arts.

    Under the administration of John Robert Edward Lee Sr. (1924-1944), the College acquired much of the physical and academic image it has today. More faculty were hired, courses were upgraded, and accreditation was received from several state agencies. By the end of Lee’s term, FAMC had 812 students and 122 staff members.

    In 1949, under the guidance of  William H. Gray Jr. (1944-1949), expansion, along with reorganization, continued. The College obtained an Army ROTC unit, and student enrollment grew to more than 2,000.

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  • State Normal College for Colored Students c/o 1904
  • Finally FAMU: Reaching The University Level 

    Or, How Florida A&M College became Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University.

    Perhaps one of the greatest achievements came under the presidency of Dr. George W. Gore (1950-1968). The Florida legislature elevated the College to university status, and in 1953, Florida A&M College became Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University.

    Obtaining university status meant restructuring existing programs and designing new academic offerings to meet the demands of producing quality students at the professional and graduate levels. Between 1953 and 1968, the Schools of Pharmacy, Law, Graduate Studies and Nursing were created.

    During this time, FAMU achieved a significant first by becoming the first Negro institution to become a member of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC). Enrollment grew to more than 3,500, and the number of faculty increased by more than 500.

  • FAMU Students Protesting against the arrest of 23 of their classmates c. 1960
  • Courage and Change

    The ’50s and ’60s were times of social unrest and change in the nation.

    During the years 1950-68, the University experienced its most rapid growth. Twenty-three buildings were erected, with construction and renovation costs totaling more than $14 million. These facilities included: The Dairy Barn, Faculty Duplexes, Law Wing of Coleman Library; Gibbs, Tucker, and Truth Halls; Agriculture and Home Economics Building (Perry Paige), The Student Union Building, The Demonstration School Building and Cafeteria; The Health and Physical Education Building, The Music and Fine Arts Complex, and the High School Gymnasium & Stadium.

    The hospital was completed and operative. The university’s staff was increased by more than 500. At this time, the four-quarter plan was implemented, and the school became the first black institution to become a member of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.  Enrollment increased to more than 3,500.

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  • The first class at FAMU College of Law graduates in 1954
  • Expanding the Academic Footprint

    Or, How the University grew to 11 schools and colleges and a Division of Graduate Studies and Continuing Education.

    With Dr. Benjamin L. Perry, Jr., at the helm, the 1970s brought further growth to the University.  FAMU experienced a decade of rapid transition when federal laws were demanding a desegregated unitary system.  Dr. Perry’s administration is credited with preservation of FAMU’s autonomy.  In 1971, FAMU was recognized as a full partner in the nine-university, public higher education system of Florida. 

    The program and academic areas within the institution were extended to include the Black Archives Research Center and Museum, established as a state repository for black history and culture; the Division of Sponsored Research; the program in medical sciences, in conjunction with FSU and the University of Florida; the development of the School of Architecture; a Naval ROTC unit; establishment of the cooperative programs in agriculture; and a degree-granting program in Afro-American Studies.

    Enrollment at FAMU increased from 3,944 (1969) to 5,024 (1970).  The university was reorganized into academic areas instead of departments.  The physical plants were improved by the construction of the Women’s Complex (apartment type dormitory), Clifton Dyson Pharmacy Building, new poultry building and dairy cattle resting shed and renovation of University Commons, Coleman Library, Tucker Hall and the FAMU Hospital into the presently named, Foote-Hilyer Administration Center (FHAC). 

  • Vintage | Famu Students on Campus
  • Navigating Academic and Campus Growth


    The 1980s served as a model for productive development.  Under the administration of Dr. Walter L. Smith, the University grew to eleven schools and colleges, and a division of graduate studies, research, and continuing education.  In 1984, the University was granted the authority to offer its first Doctor of Philosophy degree, the Ph.D. in Pharmacology. 

    The 1980s also saw the expansion of the Gaither Athletic Center, which includes the construction of a new Women’s Athletic Complex equipped with a track, an Olympic pool, men’s and women’s weight training rooms, and softball and baseball fields.  Bragg Memorial Stadium was renovated and expanded to provide seating for some 25,500 spectators, and a modern field house was erected.  The old laundry was converted into the Industrial Education Classroom-Laboratory. 

    New facilities were constructed to house the Schools of Allied Health Sciences, Architecture, Business and Industry, and Nursing.  Construction and renovation projects amounted to more than $34 million.  Under the leadership of Dr. Smith, the University launched the Centennial Celebration Fund for establishment of a university endowment.

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  • FAMU President Dr. Frederick S. Humphries
  • FAMU's Reputation Rises

    In 1992, 1995 and 1997, FAMU enrolled more National Achievement finalists than Harvard, Yale, and Stanford.

    In 1985, construction of a new corridor of history begun as Dr. Frederick S. Humphries became the eighth president of Florida A&M University.  Under his leadership, FAMU experienced significant growth and unsurpassed accomplishments.  President Humphries had the distinction of presiding over the University’s Centennial Celebration:  October 2, 1986-December 31, 1987.  This commemorative event, which centered upon the theme, “A Legacy to Preserve-A Future to Design,” was initiated with the president’s inauguration, highlighted with many activities (lectures, concerts, convocations, etc.) and honors, and culminated with the burial of a time capsule. 

    Dr. Humphries’ unique administrative initiatives heightened the appeal for FAMU to high school students, parents, and other members of the public.  Some of the achievements made during President Humphries’ administration include the following:  FAMU received national recognition for record-breaking enrollment. In 1985, enrollment was 5,100.  By 1992, total enrollment had nearly doubled to 9,551.  The enrollment for the 1998/99 academic year reached approximately 12,000. 

     

  • Larry Robinson, Ph.D., 12th president of Florida A&M University (FAMU)
  • "FAMU Rising": Florida A&M Today


    Or, How the Past has Influenced the Present.
    Over 130 years, FAMU has served the citizens of the State of Florida and the world through its preeminent educational programs. These programs are the building blocks for a legacy of “Excellence With Caring.”

    For this reason, FAMU is "Florida's Opportunity University.” The school was originally designed to meet the needs of the underrepresented and the underprivileged, and we remain committed to meeting the challenges and needs of future generations.

    Under Dr. Robinson's leadership, FAMU continues to thrive and has implemented new recruitment and retention strategies, strengthened the University's academic programs, and more!

 

Become Living History

 

FAMU Freshmen Students during Orientaion The Adventure Begins Here

One of the best ways to determine if a university is right for you is to visit the campus. We offer campus tours to provide students and their families as well as high school and/or community groups a better understanding of campus life.  

FAMU Student Celebrate During Commencement Ceremony Ready to be a Rattler?

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