ABC Celebrates 97 Years of Excellence

The 97th anniversary event was held on Thursday, October 7, at 6 p.m. on the lawn of Griggs Hall. This year’s event focused on historic Griggs Hall, the first building on the 54-acre campus.

It was also the building that Civil Rights activists of the Non-Violent Movement used for further training during the 1960s, after they had left training at First Baptist, Capitol Hill, Clark Memorial, and Gordon Memorial churches taught by the Rev. James Lawson and other leaders.

The featured speaker was Ms. Linda Wynn, of the Tennessee Historical Commission and Assistant Director for State Programs. She also was on the faculty of Fisk University and taught in the Department of History and Political Science.

Built in 1925, Griggs Hall was the original building on the campus of American Baptist College. It was named for father and son, Drs. Allen R. and Sutton E. Griggs. In 1901, the younger Griggs founded and operated the Orion Publishing Company. The author of more than 33 books, five of which were novels, Dr. Sutton E. Griggs was well known for his response to the racial injustices of his day. From 1925 to 1926, he served as president of the College.

The Griggs Hall renovation began in 2013 and was completed in 2015, in part with federal funds. The College was awarded HBCU status in 2013 by the U.S. Dept. of Education, which allowed the school to receive federal funds. Other funds were provided by and special individual contributions. Those contributors were recognized at the October 7 anniversary celebration.

Wynn, an ardent researcher on Nashville Civil Rights, said, “American Baptist College has a treasured history in Civil Rights activities that changed not only Nashville but the entire world. It is a special place we should honor and celebrate.”

Because of student involvement in Civil Rights activities of the 1960s, the school, located on what is affectionately called “The Holy Hill,” produced two individuals who received the highest civilian honor by the president of the United States; Rev. C. T. Vivian and Congressman John Lewis.

Former American Baptist College Board of Trustee chairman, Rev. Dr. Julius Scruggs, was the centerpiece honoree, having made a significant contribution to the completion of the building.

Others included Dr. Forrest Harris, Rev. Martin Espinosa, Rev. John Tolbert, Jr., Rev. Davie Tucker, Rev. James Turner, Sr., Dr. Riggins Ezell, and J. Brewster.

“The College continues to research activities and participants, who traveled significantly during this centennial journey, and seeks those who may have been omitted in this project,” said Phyllis Qualls, Vice president for Institutional Advancement.

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