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Ruth J. Simmons

Academic administrator and college president Ruth J. Simmons was born on July 3, 1945 near Grapeland, Texas to Fanny and Isaac Stubblefield. After the family moved to Houston in 1952, Simmons graduated top of her class from Phillis Wheatley High School in 1963. She then received her B.A. degree in French from Dillard University in 1967 and her M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in romance languages and literature from Harvard University in 1970 and 1973.

Simmons became as an assistant professor of French at the University of New Orleans in 1973; and, two years later, was promoted to assistant dean of their College of Liberal Arts. In 1977, she was hired by California State University, Northridge where she served as administrative coordinator for their National Endowment for the Humanities Liberal Studies Project until 1978 when she was made acting director of international programs and associate professor of Pan-African studies. In 1979, Simmons joined the University of Southern California as assistant, and then associate dean of graduate studies. She remained here until 1983 when she was hired by Princeton University to serve as director of studies for their new residential college, Butler College. From 1985 to 1987 she also worked as their acting director of Afro-American studies; and, in 1986, she was promoted to associate dean of faculty at Princeton University. Simmons subsequently served as provost of Spelman College from 1990 to 1991 before returning to Princeton as vice provost. In 1995, Simmons became the first African American woman to head a major college or university upon being named president of Smith College. Here, she established the first engineering program at a woman’s college. She held this position until 2001 when she was selected president of Brown University, making her the first African American woman to head an Ivy League institution. Here, she raised a record amount of funding for the school and established a need-blind admission standard for undergraduates. In 2012, she stepped down as president of Brown, but remained as a professor of comparative literature and Africana studies. Simmons subsequently became interim president of Prairie View A&M University in 2017 before being named president of the school, making her their first woman president.

Simmons has served on numerous boards throughout her career, including for JSTOR, Pfizer, Inc., Texas Instruments, Goldman Sachs, Howard University, Mondelez International, Chrysler, LLC, and Princeton University. She has also been a presidential appointee for President Bill Clinton’s Women’s Progress Commemoration Commission in 1999 and President Barack Obama’s Commission on White House Fellowships in 2009.

Simmons has over thirty honorary degrees and has received many awards such as CBS’s Woman of the Year in 1996, the National Urban League’s Achievement Award in 1998, the United Negro College Fund’s President’s Award in 2001, the Fulbright Lifetime Achievement Medal in 2002, and the Ellis Island Medal of Honor in 2010.

Simmons resides in Texas and has two adult children, Khari and Maya.

Ruth J. Simmons was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on December 3, 2019.

Accession Number

A2019.134

Sex

Female

Interview Date

12/3/2019

Last Name

Simmons

Maker Category
Marital Status

Divorced

Middle Name

J.

Schools

W.R. Banks Elementary School

Phillis Wheatley High School

Dillard University

Wellesley College

George Washington University

Harvard University

Atherton Elementary

First Name

Ruth

Birth City, State, Country

Grapeland

HM ID

SIM14

Favorite Season

Summer

State

Texas

Favorite Vacation Destination

France

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Texas

Birth Date

7/3/1945

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Prairie View

Country

USA

Favorite Food

Chicken Enchiladas With Rice And Refried Beans, Gumbo

Short Description

Academic administrator and college president Ruth J. Simmons (1945- ) was the first African American woman to head a major college or university as president of Smith College, the first African American woman to head an Ivy League institution as president of Brown University, and the first woman president of Prairie View A&M University.

Employment

Brown University

Prairie View A&M University

Smith College

Princeton University

Spelman College

University of Southern California

California State University, Northridge

University of New Orleans

Radcliffe College

George Washington University

Language Services Division, U.S. Department of State

Favorite Color

Red

The Honorable Edward Brooke

Edward Brooke, III was born in Washington, D.C., on October 26, 1919. His father, Edward Brooke, Jr., was an attorney for the Veterans Administration for more than fifty years, and his mother, Helen, later worked on all of Brooke’s political campaigns. Brooke entered Howard University at the age of sixteen, and earned his B.A. degree in sociology in 1941. After graduation, Brooke entered the U.S. Army and was sent overseas. A decorated captain in the all-black 366th Combat Infantry Regiment, Brooke defended men in military tribunals. During the Italian campaign, Brooke disguised himself as an Italian, crossing enemy lines to meet with the Italian Partisans and facing Nazi and Fascist troops.

Returning from World War II and experienced in legal proceedings, Brooke enrolled in Boston University Law School, earning an LL.B. in 1948 and an LL.M. a year later, as well as serving as the editor of the school’s Law Review. While practicing law in Boston, Brooke began seeking political office. Despite good showings in several races between 1950 and 1960, he failed to win. However, in 1960, he was appointed chairman of the Boston Finance Commission, where he exposed corruption in many city departments. His popularity high from his work there, Brooke was elected to the office of Massachusetts Attorney General, becoming the first African American to hold that post in the nation. He remained in the office for two terms, and in 1966, he won election to the U.S. Senate, where he was the first African American to be elected by popular vote, the first to be seated since Reconstruction and later the only to be re-elected.

During his first term in the Senate, Brooke spent a great deal of time on the issue of the Vietnam War, traveling to Asia on fact-finding missions. Upon his return, he requested that the United States cease using napalm. He also began calling for an end to trade with South Africa because of its apartheid policies. In 1967, President Lyndon B. Johnson appointed him to the National Commission on Civil Disorders, which made recommendations that ultimately took shape as the 1968 Civil Rights Act. Brooke later challenged Richard Nixon's Supreme Court nominees Hainsworth and Carswell, even though he had supported Nixon’s bid for the presidency. Brooke later became the first senator to call for Nixon’s resignation. Leaving Congress in 1979, Brooke spent another six years in private practice before retiring.

Brooke received thirty-four honorary degrees from the nation’s most prestigious colleges and universities and numerous other awards, including the Spingarn Medal from the NAACP and the Grand Cross of the Order of Merit from the Italian Government. In 2000, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts dedicated a courthouse in his honor.

Brooke passed away on January 3, 2015 at the age of 95.

Accession Number

A2003.233

Sex

Male

Interview Date

9/23/2003

Last Name

Brooke

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Occupation
Schools

Paul Laurence Dunbar High School

Boston University School of Law

Howard University

First Name

Edward

Birth City, State, Country

Washington

HM ID

BRO10

Favorite Season

Spring

State

District of Columbia

Favorite Vacation Destination

St. Martin, French West Indies

Favorite Quote

You do what you have to do.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Florida

Interview Description
Birth Date

10/26/1919

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Miami

Country

USA

Favorite Food

Lamb

Death Date

1/3/2015

Short Description

U.S. senator The Honorable Edward Brooke (1919 - 2015 ) was the first African American to be elected senator by popular vote, the first to be seated since Reconstruction, and the first to be re-elected. During the Vietnam war, he called for a ban on napalm; he also served on the National Commission on Civil Disorders and later was the first senator to call for the resignation of President Richard M. Nixon.

Employment

Boston Finance Commission

State of Massachusetts

United States Senate

C. Splar & Bok

O'Connor & Hannan

Favorite Color

Blue

DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Edward Brooke

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Edward Brooke identifies five favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Edward Brooke provides information about his mother

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Edward Brooke shares information about his paternal lineage and father

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Edward Brooke reflects on his childhood in Washington, D.C.

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Edward Brooke discusses childhood activities and heroes

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Edward Brooke describes the personalities of his mother and father

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Edward Brooke talks experiences and influences at Dunbar High School in Washington D.C.

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Edward Brooke describes himself as a student in high school

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Edward Brooke identifies a high school mentor

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Edward Brooke talks about commuting as a student to Howard University

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Edward Brooke reflects on sports at Howard University

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Edward Brooke remembers notable professors at Howard University

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Edward Brooke discusses his college involvement in the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Edward Brooke talks about the significance of black organizations

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Edward Brooke discusses his entrance into the Army

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Edward Brooke describes degregation in the army

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Edward Brooke shares stories about his army experiences

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Edward Brooke shares stories of discrimination while serving in the army

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Edward Brooke talks about the low morale of the black troops

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Edward Brooke recounts leading a band of Italian partisans

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Edward Brooke reflects on the historical service of blacks in the military

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Edward Brooke retells a story of a suprise attack on the enemy while stationed in Italy

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Edward Brooke details the reluctance to use black troops for combat duty

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Edward Brooke describes the mix of emotions upon returning home after the war

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Edward Brooke shared details about his black combat unit

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Edward Brooke discusses meeting and marrying an Italian woman

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Edward Brooke recounts his decision to attend law school

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Edward Brooke talks about living in the Roxbury district of Boston, Massachusetts

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Edward Brooke discusses entering private legal practice

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Edward Brooke talks about running for public office

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Edward Brooke describes his involvement in Massachusetts politics

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Edward Brooke comments on the impact of his wife's race on his campaigns

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Edward Brooke talks about running for Secretary of State

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Edward Brooke describes some of the challenges he faced while investigating corruption

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Edward Brooke discusses being elected Attorney General for Massachusetts

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Edward Brooke talks about the Boston Strangler case

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Edward Brooke discusses politics in Massachusetts

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Edward Brooke talks about the Voting Rights Act

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Edward Brooke talks about the importance of economic and political power

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Edward Brooke highlights the contributions of individuals to black political and economic progress

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Edward Brooke comments on Barry Goldwater

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Edward Brooke comments on black elected officials

Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Edward Brooke discusses his path to the Senate

Tape: 7 Story: 8 - Edward Brooke discusses his constituency

Tape: 7 Story: 9 - Edward Brooke talks about political opposition in 1966

Tape: 8 Story: 1 - Edward Brooke explains his approach to public office

Tape: 8 Story: 2 - Edward Brooke talks about opposition to his run for the United States Senate

Tape: 8 Story: 3 - Edward Brooke discusses the Vietnam war

Tape: 8 Story: 4 - Edward Brooke identifies issues he confronted while running for the United States Senate

Tape: 8 Story: 5 - Edward Brooke talks about the Watts riot

Tape: 8 Story: 6 - Edward Brooke discusses black voters and the two major political parties

Tape: 8 Story: 7 - Edward Brooke talks about the Kennedy family

Tape: 8 Story: 8 - Edward Brooke discusses black voter support and black representation

Tape: 9 Story: 1 - Edward Brooke outlines key issues for future black Senatorial candidates

Tape: 9 Story: 2 - Edward Brooke discusses his contentious relationship with Richard Nixon

Tape: 9 Story: 3 - Edward Brooke details his stature and influence in the Republican Party

Tape: 9 Story: 4 - Edward Brooke reveals his abhorrence for the Republican Southern Strategy

Tape: 9 Story: 5 - Edward Brooke discusses Richard Nixon's strengths and weaknesses

Tape: 9 Story: 6 - Edward Brooke remembers his advice to Richard Nixon to resign the Presidency

Tape: 9 Story: 7 - Edward Brooke recounts his views on the Vietnam War and a meeting with Lyndon Johnson

Tape: 9 Story: 8 - Edward Brooke notes highlights from his Senate career

Tape: 10 Story: 1 - Edward Brooke shares his hopes and concerns for society

Tape: 10 Story: 2 - Edward Brooke reflects on his legacy