Congressman Burchett Honors Dr. Harold Black

By Steve Hunley, Publisher

Tim Burchett, our congressman, took to the floor of the United States House of Representatives to honor Dr. Harold Black. Dr. Black has been informed the University of Georgia is naming a residence hall after him. Harold Black was the first black male student to enroll at the Terry College of Business as a freshman and graduate. Congressman Burchett went through the list of Dr. Black’s achievements which could make for a good-sized scroll. Among those achievements and accomplishments are awards for his research and teaching and numerous honors from the Department of the Treasury of the United States and the National Urban League. The Terry School of Business has honored Dr. Black with a Dr. Harold A. Black Professorship.

Through the years, Dr. Black taught at several universities before coming to the University of Tennessee where he taught for 24 years before retiring from the Haslam School of Business. Dr. Black was born in Macon, Georgia and attended Booker T. Washington High School in Atlanta before applying to the University of Georgia. In a previous interview, Dr. Black explained why he didn’t choose to attend an all-black school such as Morehouse College.

“I was caught up in the civil-rights thing,” Dr. Black explained. “I had participated and knew a lot of the participants. I knew I would be doing the civil-rights movement a disservice if I picked an all-black school.”

Harold Black swept aside the considerable obstacles society placed in his path at the time. Despite his mother’s particular trepidation about what awaited her son at the University of Georgia, Dr. Black said it was a good experience.

In the same interview, Dr. Black described his time at the University of Georgia. “I had a wonderful time at Georgia. I couldn’t have had a better experience. I had a wonderful and fulfilling social life. I absolutely loved the whole classroom experience.”

Yet there were some hurtful and ugly incidents at the time, none of which managed to dampen Harold Black’s spirit. In fact, it was quite the contrary. In the interview Dr. Black granted to writer John Shearer, he recalled going to a beginning-of-the-year meeting in an auditorium. Harold Black sat down near the front while a number of other students got up, moving away from him and sat somewhere else. Yet five white male students sitting in front of him remained in their seats. One of the five turned around and began a conversation with Dr. Black. Harold Black quickly learned they all had something in common; they were all from the Atlanta area and they were all freshmen and they were all a little nervous about being there.

“Those guys got up and all sat next to me,” Black recalled years later. “It was like I was instructed to go and sit there. From that first day, I had friends at the University of Georgia and they remained close friends.”

Fifty years later, Shearer noted tears had almost begun welling in Dr. Black’s eyes recalling what Black still remembers as a “God moment” in his life. As it happened, all of Harold Black’s new friends were Presbyterians (which will please my wife Kim) and soon Dr. Black was invited to come and visit the Westminster Center on the University of Georgia campus. That same center became the epicenter of social life for young Harold Black.

Harold Black was only one of seven black students at the University of Georgia when he attended. Nobody who knows him can be surprised that Harold Black was on the Dean’s List while attending the University of Georgia.

Some tried to inflict indignities upon Harold Black as a student, such as breaking the window of his dorm room and vandalizing the bathroom he used and other students refused to use. When his own bathroom was vandalized, Black went and made a point of using every shower and toilet in the other bathroom. Black told the other students he would continue to do so every day until they stopped vandalizing his own bathroom. The harassment stopped.

“To me, it was an adventure. To me, it was fun. Why should I be bitter?” Dr. Black wondered. “For this period of time, I had the right disposition.”

Being yet again honored by his alma mater has to be a gratifying experience for Dr. Black, although he remains one of the most modest of men. Now our district’s congressman has stood up on the floor of the House of Representatives to honor and praise Dr. Harold Black’s lifetime of achievement and service. Congressman Burchett pointed out Dr. Black is a regular columnist in “my favorite newspaper, The Knoxville Focus.”

I have often said The Focus has the best lineup of regular columnists in any publication and readers will find things in this newspaper they can read nowhere else. I stick by my assertion about our columnists and want to reiterate how proud I am as the publisher to have so distinguished a person as Dr. Harold Black write a regular column for The Focus. Like everybody else, I was tickled to death that our congressman, Tim Burchett, has honored Dr. Harold Black with a speech on the floor of the House of Representatives. Dr. Black deserves this special recognition for his accomplishments and lifetime of achievement. Harold Black has all kinds of awards and the like from his chosen profession, but I would like to say there is no greater gentleman in the truest sense of the word anywhere. It has been an honor and privilege for me to get to know Dr. Harold Black as a person.

The life of Dr. Harold A. Black is in itself a testament to the greatness of America as well as the character of the man himself. Harold Black never let any obstacle stand in his path in his life’s journey. Nor was Harold Black deterred by the petty and vile meanness of other people of low character. Most of all, Dr. Harold Black never allowed that meanness to touch his personal spirit, much less affect his character or commitment to others. The Knoxville Focus and I are happy to join with our congressman Tim Burchett in celebrating the life and accomplishments of our friend, Dr. Harold A. Black.