July 8

Hamilton Holmes

July 8, 1941 - Atlanta

He was valedictorian of his high school class but the University of Georgia wouldn’t let him in.

Hamilton Holmes was born in 1941 in Atlanta, the grandson of a doctor. After Holmes’ 1959 graduation from Atlanta’s Henry McNeal Turner High School, Jesse Hill of the NAACP recruited him and fellow Turner grad Charlayne Hunter to challenge segregation in Georgia’s colleges. The University of Georgia turned them both down but they kept up the legal fight. A federal judge finally ruled in their favor.

In January 1961, with the world watching, Holmes and Hunter became the first African-American students at UGA. Holmes graduated cum laude in 1963. Following his dream to be a doctor like his grandfather, he became the first black student admitted to the Emory University School of Medicine. He practiced at Atlanta’s Grady & VA hospitals, and served on Emory’s faculty. In 1992 Holmes and Charlayne Hunter-Gault established a scholarship for African-American students at UGA.

The trailblazer who opened doors for so many others was born on July 8, 1941, Today in Georgia History.