Morehouse men bring a legacy to Tampa

Published April 3, 2007

In his first semester at Atlanta's Morehouse College, Tampa lawyer David Stamps learned much in the classroom about various subjects, but even more about the awesome responsibility of being a "Morehouse man."

Faculty members displayed an uncommon commitment to the students of the prestigious all-male, historically black college.

In weekly chapel services, the staff quickly indoctrinated freshmen on the philosophies of famous graduates such as the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., and former Morehouse president Benjamin Mays.

"We're taught that in addition to being the best we can be, we're also expected to be leaders and examples for other young African-American males coming behind us," Stamps explained. "That is something we learn from day one at Morehouse. ... The college has developed a culture in which mediocrity is just not acceptable."

Stamps, a King High alum, returned home after a semester and decided to make an impact right away.

Disappointed with the number of African-Americans in his graduating class at King, Stamps and his parents created a scholarship for the school's top African-American senior.

It's just one example of the positive impact Morehouse has had on Tampa. When longtime activist and Morehouse graduate Delano Stewart decided to have a reception here for outgoing president Walter Massey, he didn't have to search far to find other supporters.

Our area is sprinkled with Morehouse alums, including retired circuit court Judge Perry Little, former City Council member Perry Harvey Jr., former state Sen. James Hargrett, Tampa Broadcasting president Glenn Cherry, WTMP radio host Jetie B. Wilds, Wingstop restaurant owner Marcus McCants and orthodontist William Marsh.

The result will be an April 27 event at the Downtown Embassy Suites from 6 to 10 p.m. For tickets, call 813 221-4454.

The Morehouse men will tell you it means something to be a Morehouse man, but they don't boast of the accomplishment of having a degree from the school that produced former United Nations Ambassador Andrew Young, NAACP chairman Julian Bond and filmmaker Spike Lee.

They speak of expectations, and they speak of excellence.

"It means I'm a candle in the dark," Stewart said. "There was never any doubt in my mind that as a Morehouse man, you were to educate yourself and then go back into your community and lift your people out. That was instilled in the very matter of your existence."

In Dr. Massey, the outgoing president, Morehouse says goodbye to a physicist who ran the National Science Foundation and was provost at the University of California before taking over the school.

Over 11 years, Massey energized enrollment (now at 3,000), increased the endowment and sparked a capital campaign that attracted investors such as Oprah Winfrey and David Geffen.

Paraphrasing friend and Motorola chairman Robert Galvin, Massey recently wrote that his goal was to spread hope like a fertilizer, reinvigorating old ideas and growing new ideas.

Tampa's Morehouse men have done the same thing.

That's all I'm saying.

Ernest Hooper can be reached at hooper@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3406.