Black regent accused of lobbying for FAMU job
© St. Petersburg Times, published March 9, 2001
TALLAHASSEE -- Black Democratic lawmakers on Thursday accused the only black member of the state Board of Regents of trying to get himself named interim president of Florida A&M University.
James Corbin, who was appointed a regent last year by Republican Gov. Jeb Bush, created the uproar when he called for a private meeting Saturday of influential FAMU alumni.
He said he wanted to discuss the future of the historically black institution, which is still reeling from the recent resignations of its longtime president, Frederick Humphries, and provost James Aamons.
But members of the legislative black caucus think Corbin has a personal agenda.
Rep. Frederica Wilson, D-Miami, said Corbin was trying to take over the presidential selection process by using a "back door approach" with selected FAMU alumni.
State Sen. Al Lawson, D-Tallahassee, said black lawmakers will make it clear to regents chairman Tom Petway that they want the selection of an interim president "to go through the normal process."
Corbin, who told the Tallahassee Democrat this week he would consider taking the interim presidency if it is offered, could not be reached for comment.
Bernard Kinsey, a former president of FAMU's alumni association, said he was invited to the meeting in Orlando and plans to attend. He said Corbin told him the discussion would be about FAMU's future under a new board of trustees.
He said there was no indication that the selection of an interim president would be on the agenda.
The regents are expected to name a temporary leader for FAMU before the end of June, when Humphries is scheduled to step down. A permanent president will be selected by the new trustees, who will be appointed by Bush.
At a hastily called press conference with other members of the 22-person black caucus, Wilson accused Corbin of saying several lawmakers planned to attend his meeting when he knew that wasn't true.
Some were never contacted, she said, and Lawson had already declined the invitation.
Lawson said he and other legislators would not participate in a secret meeting that would violate Florida's Sunshine Law.
Caucus members said FAMU should first look within its own faculty for an interim president. If the university has to go outside, they said, it should only consider candidates with strong academic credentials and the ability to raise money for the university.
Corbin, a 1951 graduate of FAMU, lives in Chattahoochee, where he runs a financial services firm. He was acting president of Roxbury Community College in Boston in the mid-1970s.
- Times staff writer Barry Klein contributed to this report.
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