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Michael Lomax

Nonprofit executive Michael Lomax was born on October 2, 1947, in Los Angeles, California to parents Hallie Alemena Davis and Lucius W. Lomax, Jr. He moved to Tuskegee, Alabama in 1961, where he attended Tuskegee Institute High School. He earned his B.A. degree in English from Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia, in 1968, his M.A. degree in English literature from Columbia University in New York in 1972, and his Ph.D. degree in African American studies from Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia in 1984.

After graduation, Lomax began teaching English at Morehouse College. In 1974, he was hired as the director of research and special assistant to the mayor of Atlanta. While in this position, Lomax helped establish the City of Atlanta’s Office of Cultural Affairs, where he served as director. In 1978, Lomax was elected to the Fulton County Board of Commissioners. Two years later, he became the first African American to be elected as board chairman, a position he held for twelve years. In 1981, Lomax began working as a professor of English at Spelman College in Atlanta. He served as the president of The National Faculty in Atlanta from 1994 to 1997. From 1997 to 2004, he served as president and professor of English and African world studies at Dillard University in New Orleans, Louisiana. Lomax then began serving as the president and chief executive officer of the United Negro College Fund in Washington, D.C.

Lomax has served on the board for Teach for America and the KIPP Foundation, as well as the Carter Center, the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, and the Studio Museum of Harlem. He was a member of the founding Council of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of African American History and Culture. He also founded the National Black Arts Festival in 1978. Lomax served on the President’s Board of Advisors on Historically Black Colleges and Universities under President George W. Bush. He has received several awards as well, including the Emory Medal and several honorary degrees.

Lomax and his wife, Cheryl, have two daughters, Michele and Rachel.

Michael Lomax was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on January 31, 2017.

Accession Number

A2017.013

Sex

Male

Interview Date

01/31/2017

Last Name

Lomax

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Middle Name

L.

Occupation
Schools

Morehouse College

Columbia University

Emory University

Tuskegee Institute High School

Los Angeles High School

Arlington Heights Elementary School

First Name

Michael

Birth City, State, Country

Los Angeles

HM ID

LOM01

Favorite Season

Spring

State

California

Favorite Vacation Destination

Mexico

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

District of Columbia

Interview Description
Birth Date

10/2/1947

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Washington

Country

USA

Short Description

Nonprofit executive Michael Lomax (1947- ) was the first African American chairman of the Fulton County Board of Commissioners, served as president of Dillard University from 1997 to 2004, and became president of the United Negro College Fund in 2004.

Employment

United Negro College Fund

Dillard University

National Faculty

Wilson Financial

Fulton Board County Commissioner

Spelman College

City of Atlanta

Favorite Color

Blue

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Michael Lomax's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Michael Lomax lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Michael Lomax describes his mother's family background, pt. 1

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Michael Lomax describes his mother's family background, pt. 2

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Michael Lomax talks about his mother's education

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Michael Lomax describes his paternal grandfather's background

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Michael Lomax talks about his paternal grandmother's family background, pt. 1

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Michael Lomax describes his paternal grandmother's family background, pt. 2

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Michael Lomax talks about his family's migration out of the South

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Michael Lomax talks about his paternal grandfather's financial success

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Michael Lomax reflects upon the richness of his family history

Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Michael Lomax describes the Dunbar Cocktail Lounge and Grill on Central Avenue in Los Angeles, California

Tape: 1 Story: 13 - Michael Lomax talks about his parents' courtship

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Michael Lomax talks about his mother's manuscripts

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Michael Lomax describes his parents' personalities and interests

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Michael Lomax talks about his mother's coverage of the Civil Rights Movement

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Michael Lomax describes his paternal grandparents' personalities

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Michael Lomax remembers his early exposure to African American celebrities

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Michael Lomax talks about his parents' association with leftists in Los Angeles, California

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Michael Lomax lists his siblings

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Michael Lomax describes his earliest childhood memories

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Michael Lomax describes the sights, sounds and smells of his childhood, pt. 1

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Michael Lomax describes the sights, sounds and smells of his childhood, pt. 2

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Michael Lomax describes his neighborhood in Los Angeles, California

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Michael Lomax remembers his parents' divorce

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Michael Lomax remembers moving to Tuskegee, Alabama

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Michael Lomax describes his community in Tuskegee, Alabama

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Michael Lomax talks about his inheritance

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Michael Lomax describes his mother's decision to cover the Civil Rights Movement

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Michael Lomax remembers the Watts riots of 1965

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Michael Lomax talks about the influence of his paternal grandmother

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Michael Lomax remembers his early interest in reading

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Michael Lomax recalls his admission to Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Michael Lomax remembers Morehouse College President Benjamin Mays

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Michael Lomax recalls his reputation at Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Michael Lomax remembers the Civil Rights Movement

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Michael Lomax recalls the funeral service for Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in Atlanta, Georgia

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Michael Lomax recalls his graduation from Morehouse College

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Michael Lomax remembers taking classes at Atlanta University and Spelman College

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Michael Lomax describes his theater involvement during college

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Michael Lomax remembers his English literature courses at Morehouse College

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Michael Lomax recalls becoming an English instructor at Morehouse College

Tape: 4 Story: 10 - Michael Lomax talks about his wife, Pearl Cleage's family background

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Michael Lomax remembers moving with Pearl Cleage to Atlanta, Georgia

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Michael Lomax talks about the Black Power movement

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Michael Lomax remembers the Black Arts Movement in Atlanta, Georgia

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Michael Lomax talks about his dissertation

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Michael Lomax recalls the start of his political career in Atlanta, Georgia

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Michael Lomax recalls his election to the Fulton County Board of Commissioners

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Michael Lomax talks about the Atlanta Cyclorama and Civil War Museum

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Michael Lomax describes his work on the Fulton County Board of Commissioners

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Michael Lomax talks about the administration of Mayor Maynard Jackson

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Michael Lomax describes his time in the Office of Cultural Affairs in Atlanta, Georgia

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Michael Lomax describes the opportunities for black artists in Atlanta, Georgia, pt. 1

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Michael Lomax describes the opportunities for black artists in Atlanta, Georgia, pt. 2

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Michael Lomax talks about the expansion of the William B. Hartsfield Atlanta International Airport

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Michael Lomax remembers his decision to leave politics

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Michael Lomax talks about the City of Atlanta's bid for the 1996 Summer Olympics

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Michael Lomax recalls his decision to pursue a college presidency

DASession

1$1

DATape

5$6

DAStory

3$8

DATitle
Michael Lomax remembers the Black Arts Movement in Atlanta, Georgia
Michael Lomax recalls his decision to pursue a college presidency
Transcript
The war [Vietnam War] ends and the decision is gonna be, are we gonna stay in Atlanta [Georgia]. I got to go back to grad- I can go back to graduate school and I get admitted to Dartmouth [Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire], so there's a possibility of going there but we go up and visit Dartmouth in the middle of the winter, so, no. I got admitted to Berkeley [University of California, Berkeley, Berkeley, California]; didn't wanna go there. Could go back to Columbia [Columbia University, New York, New York] but we made the decision to stay in Atlanta and I went to Emory [Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia] to get my Ph.D. And Pearl [HistoryMaker Pearl Cleage] took a job working for something called the Southern Education Program [Atlanta, Georgia], which placed black teachers at small black colleges [HBCUs]. And we're in the middle of the Black Arts Movement and, you know, neighborhood art centers are developing and cool artists are there and, you know, you're--there's a black bookstore and you're reading black poetry and the, IBW is, you know, Institute of the Black World [Atlanta, Georgia] is having, you know, Mrs. Du Bois do--I remember, I remember one evening, this was the, you know, a classic evening, an IBW event. Shirley Graham Du Bois is there and Coretta Scott King, in African garb, recites poetry. I mean, it's just, there's things that you wouldn't believe. And these, and, you know, these, these were people who were still--in the case of Mrs. King, you know, beautiful, vibrant widow, still traumatized, but beginning the work to build not just The King Center [Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change, Atlanta, Georgia] but to create a King holiday [Martin Luther King Jr. Day]. And, you know, there's, there's a lot going on (simultaneous).$$(Simultaneous) Yeah you would think--I think people assume that people of the past were ideologically separated, even if they were they still functioned together.$$No, I mean, it, it was interesting because, you know, you had the Institute for the Black World [sic.], which was, you know, on the left of the black historical movement, you know, and, you know, they were--create the black university and all that, study black history, study bla- you know, a new, a new, newly emergent ideologically driven black, black view of the black past; but also very respectful of the forbearers and that's why, you know, you would have a C.L.R. James coming, you know, you'd go--speak to the Institute of the Black World. But, you know, there, Bobby, what was Bobby's last name? Gosh, my brain isn't working but who was the historian for the, the Garvey movement, the West Indian guy.$$Yeah, Bobby Hill [Robert A. Hill].$$Bobby Hill. So, Bobby is there, young Bobby Hill, you know, and all this stuff about Garvey [Marcus Garvey] and then, you know, people are writing, doing new writing on Du Bois [W.E.B. Du Bois] and, and, of course, Shirley Graham Du Bois is there. And, and so this is, this is the emergence of, you know, the legitimate study of African American past, African American history. And the reason--one of the reasons why I went to Emory was Emory was, and they had something called the Institute for the Liberal Arts [Graduate Institute of the Liberal Arts; Institute for the Liberal Arts] and they were prepared to allow me to create a, my own personal field of study which would allow me to study the Harlem Renaissance.$Your political life ended, ends in what, 19--?$$My political life ends in 1993--$$Okay.$$--when I run for mayor and lose to Bill Campbell, and--yeah, 1993.$$Okay.$$I'm dead meat. At, by 1993 at the age of, what forty-seven or something like that, I am history; I'm dead meat. No one will ever know me again. I have, as I said flown too close to the sun and my wings have been melted and I fall on my behind. And, yeah, the question is in '93 [1993] will I have any kind of a career ever again.$$Well, I, you know, I, we see, you know, that there have been many times in the history of this country where people look like they're done with something and then they bounce back. But something happened I guess, in, in that period that convinced you, you needed to do something else--or you wanted to do something else.$$Yeah.$$Yeah.$$So, I had, so I did a couple of things. I said, well, maybe I should go into business. And I had tried this, my hand at buying a funeral home [Amistad Corporation, Atlanta, Georgia] and operating that--that was, I lived to talk about it, I succeeded, but I didn't wanna do that. I didn't wanna be a businessperson. I ran a small nonprofit. But I did decide--so here's what I did decide. I, I, I said I wanna commit my life to social change and to changing opportunity for my own community; and I think that I'm probably best suited to do that not as a politician but as an educator. But I don't wanna do it in the classroom, I don't want--I wanna find a bigger venue in which to do that, and that's when I decided that I would, I would find a way to become a college president. Now, I had a Ph.D. and but I had really not had a--I kept teaching from '70 [1970] up, up until about '88 [1988] I was still teaching at Spelman [Spelman College, Atlanta, Georgia]. But I really, people thought of me, I, he's the chairman of the Fulton County commission [Fulton County Board of Commissioners], people always called me Mr. Chairman, Mr. Chairman--not Dr. Lomax [HistoryMaker Michael Lomax]. And I remember that Morehouse [Morehouse College, Atlanta, Georgia], I said, boy, you know, I really would love to be president of Morehouse. And I remember--I, I, I did get an interview with the search committee. And I remember that one of the members of the search committee, who was at that time the CEO of Coca-Cola [The Coca-Cola Company], looking at me and saying, "Michael, why are you here? You're not an academic; you're a politician." And I realized that I had, in the minds of most people, I was a politician; I wasn't an academic. And so, I had to decide to do two things: I had to reinvent myself, and I probably had to leave town. And that was when I made the decision that I would find a transitional job and that was in a nonprofit called the National Faculty, and it was a small nonprofit in Atlanta [Georgia]. But the reason why it seemed like the right one to do is I was on the board of it and the guy who had been president of the non- had been named the president of American University in Washington, D.C. So I said if it was good enough for Ben Ladner [Benjamin Ladner], this may be a good enough launch. And so, for three years I led this small nonprofit that worked with school systems and universities to provide professional development for schools. And after doing it for about three or four years I got my first college presidency [at Dillard University, New Orleans, Louisiana]; and I think that's where we should stop.