Dr. Otis Johnson’s lecture entitled “Savannah State College Student Uprising of 1963” illustrated his experiences as a student of Savannah State and even an African-American during that time. Students today may recognize our school as Savannah State University (SSU) but during Dr. Johnson’s enrollment the school was named Savannah State College (SSC). His presentation highlighted student activist who expressed their beliefs and concerns towards the issues that were developing. In may1963 exactly 400 students withdrew in total from Savannah State College to protest against the expulsion of two students. Bobby Hill and James Brown were the students expelled for their actions to support a non-tenured economics professor. The students were circulating a petition requesting college administration reconsider their decision not to renew the professor’s contract. Dr. Johnson provided descriptive examples on how administration and the student body handled the student’s protest and other adversities during his time at SSC. The lecture also covered information about Dr. Johnson’s life after attending SSC. One fact I found interesting was his accomplishment to be the first African-American student to attend Armstrong-Atlantic State University (AASU). Entering as a sophomore transfer student from Savannah State College in 1963, Johnson graduated from Armstrong with the class of 1964. Integration was only one of the challenges that affected AASU and its ability to expand as a university. A politician, Mayor to the City of Savannah, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences at SSU, District 2 alderman, and navy veteran all represent bookmarks in Dr. Otis Johnson historical timeline leading him through his path as influential leader in the African-American community.
Johnson recently discussed his eight years as mayor, his life in Savannah and his determination to break racial barriers, all of which culminated into what he called “a hellish” final year that put race relations and political agendas on a collision course.