10 Facts About Dr. Benjamin E. Mays

Dr. Benjamin E. Mays

“It must be borne in mind that the tragedy of life does not lie in not reaching your goal. The tragedy of life lies in having no goal to reach.”

Dr. Benjamin Mays Sculpture at Morehouse College

Dr. Benjamin Mays Statue
(Morehouse College)

1. Dr. Mays was a mentor to Dr. Martin Luther King from the time he was a student until his murder in 1968. He instilled in him and all of his students two concepts that helped inspire the Civil Rights Movement. The first was the dignity of all human beings and the second was the incompatibility of the United States of America’s democratic ideals and social practices of discrimination and racism. Dr. Martin Luther King labeled Dr. Mays as a “Spiritual Mentor” and an “Intellectual Father”. Dr. Mays even delivered the eulogy at Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr’s funeral.

2. Dr. Mays is best known for serving as the School of Religion’s Dean at Howard University from 1934 to 1940 and as the President of Morehouse College from 1940 to 1967.

3. Dr. Benjamin Elijah Mays was one of the most outspoken and articulate critics of segregation prior to the start of the Civil Rights Movement.

4. During Dr. Benjamin Mays lifetime he wrote nine books, almost 2000 articles, received 56 honorary degrees including a posthumous degree from Columbia University. He was named to the Schomburg Honor Roll of Race Relations in 1944 and was also called one of the 12 most powerful men in American by the Pittsburgh Courier in 1950.

5. Dr. Benjamin Mays was born in Epworth, South Carolina on August 1, 1894 and made his transition on March 28, 1984. His first wife was Elle Harvin who passed in 1923 after complications from a surgery in an Atlanta hospital and his second wife was Sadie Gray who passed in 1969 after forty-three years of marriage.

Dr. Benjamin E. Mays Childhood Home

Dr. Benjamin E. Mays Childhood Home

6. The childhood home of Dr. Benjamin E. Mays is now a historical site and museum located in Greenwood County, South Carolina. He currently has at least one high school, one street and seven academic buildings named in his honor.

7. Dr. Mays was the first African American president of the Atlanta Board of Education. During his tenure he presided peacefully over the desgregation of Atlanta Public Schools.

8. Benjamin Mays traveled a great deal during his life. However, it was his meeting with Mahatma Ghandi in India that had the greatest impact on his life and career. During this meeting he had the opportunity to exchange ideas and speak at length with the equal rights leader about non-violence.

9. Benjamin Elijah Mays was a star intercollegiate debater at Bates College and coached the debate team at Morehouse College until 1924. During his tenure as Debate Team Coach at Morehouse College he taught such stars as James Madison Nabrit, Jr., Howard Thurman,and Brailsford Brazeal.

10. Dr. Mays is a member of the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc. and is one of the founders of the Psi Chapter of Omega Psi Phi at Morehouse College.

  • Polly Curran

    What an inspirational man Dr. Benjamin Mays was. He has influenced a young friend of mine in Washington, DC, Mossi Tull, who is being honored by the NAACP in April, 2012.

  • http://www.facebook.com/charles.micheaux Charles Micheaux

    My favorite poem was written by the great Dr. Benjamin Elijah Mays:
    Life is just a minute,
    Only sixty seconds in it.
    Forced upon you can’t refuse it.
    Didn’t seek it.
    Didn’t choose it.
    But it’s up to YOU
    to use it.
    You must suffer if you loose it.
    Give an account if you abuse it.
    Just a tiny little minute…
    But eternity is in it.