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Leading Samford, Leading Alabama
Exhibit: February 2014
Samford University Library hosts Leading Samford, Leading Alabama featuring notable black Alabamians and Samford Trustees. The biographies and photographs are showcased by the main level grand staircase. Leaders included: Regina Benjamin, Victor M. Brown, Robert Holmes Jr., Reverend John E. King Jr., Simmie Lee Knox, Mae Carol Jemison, Lonnie G. Johnson, and Tim Vines.Also on display are materials featuring former trustee Rev. John Porter, and our first African American student, Audrey Gaston.
Audrey Lattimore Gaston
Audrey Lattimore Gaston was admitted to the Cumberland School of Law in 1967 and graduated in 1970, becoming the first African American Samford graduate. Audrey went on to become the first female U. S. Attorney clerk in Birmingham and the first female Assistant U.S. Attorney in the Southeast.
Reverend John T. Porter (1932–2006)
The Reverend John Thomas Porter was a key figure in the struggle for civil rights in Alabama, working closely with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. He was pastor of the Sixth Avenue Baptist Church for 38 years, beginning in 1962, and he served as a Samford University trustee beginning in 1991.
His role as a civil rights leader in Birmingham is recognized at Kelly Ingram Park, where the statue of ministers kneeling in prayer is based on a photograph of Porter, the Rev. Nelson Smith Jr. and the Rev. A.D. King. It captured a moment when the three prayed before being arrested.
Victor M. BrownVice President of Minority and Small Business Development
Birmingham Business Alliance
Victor M. Brown is Vice President of Minority and Small Business Development for the Birmingham Business Alliance (BBA). In his role at the BBA, he leads outreach efforts to small, minority and women owned businesses. His professional background is in accounting, management, banking, insurance and hospitality.
Brown has been with the BBA, and its predecessor the Birmingham Reginal Chamber of Commerce, since September of 2007, and has served as director of workforce development and vice president of business development. Prior to his role with the Chamber, Brown managed a commercial loan portfolio for Wells Fargo Bank's Birmingham operation. Prior to joining Wells Fargo, he held positions of increasing authority at a number of companies, and in a variety of industries, including Aerospace Manufacturing, Airport Concession Management Operations, and Real Estate Financial Services.
Brown resides in Birmingham, Alabama with his wife Tahiera Monique Brown, a local television producer and author. They have two children, eight grandchildren and one great grandchild.
Robert Holmes Jr.Senior Vice President, Ethics and Corporate Concerns
Alabama Power (ret.)
Robert Holmes was Senior Vice President of Ethics and Corporate Concerns at Alabama Power and Chairman of the Alabama Power Foundation prior to his retirement in December 2010. He received his bachelor's degree from Alabama A & M University and his engineering degree from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. He is a graduate of several continuing education courses, including the advanced Management Program at Harvard Business School; the Public Utility Management Program at the University of Georgia; and the "Leadership at the Peak" and the "Executive Leadership" programs.
He is a member of several boards of directors, including those of the Boy Scouts of America, AG Gaston Boys and Girls Club. The Community Foundation of Greater Birmingham (serving as Chair of the Board 2013 to 2015), Samford University, Ethics and Compliance Officer Association where he has served as Chair of the Board and currently an emeritus member, Past Chair of the Board of the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute and the Josephson Institute of Ethics. He is actively involved in Character Counts! throughout the state of Alabama in K-12 and he enthusiastically brings a focus on ethics in business at various institutions of higher education.
In February 2000 he received the Whitney M. Young, Jr. Service Award from the Boy Scouts of America for unselfish service to the youth of America and also received the Silver Beaver Award from the Boy Scouts of America. In addition he has served his Fraternity, Omega Psi Phi Inc. for over four decades.
In addition he is a member of Sigma Pi Phi Fraternity Inc. where he has served as Sire Archon (President) of Beta Kappa Boule' and is a member of the Board of Trustees of The Boule' Foundation.
A member of the Board of Deacons and Sunday School Teacher at Sixth Avenue Baptist Church in Birmingham, he is married to Camelia Holmes and they have two children and six grandchildren.
Reverend John E. King Jr."And I will give you Pastors according to mine heart, which shall feed you with knowledge and understanding." Jeremiah 3:15
Pastor King is a native of Birmingham, Alabama. He is the son of Mrs. Resetta King and the late John E. King Sr. Pastor King is presently serving as Associate Executive Director for Church & Community Relations for the Birmingham Baptist Association in Alabama.
Pastor King received his Bachelor of Arts Degree from the Virginia Union University in Richmond, Virginia. He earned his Juris Doctor Degree from the Birmingham School of Law. He also attended the Birmingham Baptist College, the University of Alabama at Birmingham and the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.
In 1977, Pastor King began his work in the church as an associate minister and youth advisor at Trinity Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama. He held that position for five years. He was licensed and ordained at the Trinity Baptist Church. He served as pastor of Galilee Baptist Church for six years. Under Pastor King's leadership, they relocated and built a new sanctuary, fellowship and educational facilities.
He has served as Evangelism Instructor at Mt. Pilgram District Association in Birmingham and has served on several boards:The Board of Directors for Cooperative Downtown Ministries; Trustee American Baptist Theological Seminary; Pastoral Care Advisory Committee, Baptist Health Systems, Princeton; Jimmie Hale Mission; Birmingham Chapter of the American Red Cross; Advisory Committee of the Amelia Center.
Pastor King is a member of Sixth Avenue Baptist Church, the Birmingham Baptist Ministers Conference, the Alabama State Bar, and the Birmingham Bar Association. He is also a member of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc.
On September 29, 2003, Pastor King was unanimously called to be the pastor of Trinity Baptist Church. Under his administration, more than $200,000 in capital improvements have been completed. Articles of Incorporation and Bylaws revised, and new fiscal and personnel policies have been implemented. The church has experienced phenomenal growth numerically, financially, and spiritually. Established ministries have been strengthened, and new ministries (Children's Church, Camp Trinity Summer Enrichment Program, Computer and Technology Lab, Internet Ministry and others) have been developed. To God be the Glory!
Pastor King is married to the former Elaine Beatrice Hill. God blessed their union with three wonderful children: Tamara, Adrienne and Jonathon. They also have two granddaughters, Amiyah Danielle and Arianna Janelle.
Tim VinesChief Administrative Officer
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama
Tim Vines serves as Chief Administrative Officer of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama. In his role, Mr. Vines is responsible for all aspects of Enterprise Resources, Information Technology, Legal Services and Corporate Communications and Community Relations.
Mr. Vines is originally from Lafayette, Alabama, and has been with Blue Cross 20 years. During his tenure, he has served as Vice President, Special Claims Operations; Vice President, Health Management; Senior Vice President, Health Management; and most recently served as Senior Vice President of Business Operations.
A graduate from Auburn University with a degree in Finance, Mr. Vines is very active in the community. He currently serves on the Board of Trustees of Samford University, the Board of Directors for the American Red Cross Alabama Region, the Board of Directors of American Character Builders, and Auburn University Diversity & Multicultural Affairs Committee. He is also past Chairman and current member of the Board of Directors of the Better Business Bureau serving Central Alabama and the Wiregrass.
Mr. Vines and his wife Antoinette (Toni) have been married 23 years and they have three beautiful daughters. He and his family are members of Shades Mountain Baptist Church, where Tim has served as a Deacon, served on the finance committee, sings in the choir and teaches Sunday School.
Regina BenjaminSurgeon General (former)
Regina M. Benjamin, M.D., M.B.A., was appointed by President Barack Obama as the 18th United States Surgeon General in July, 2009 and served a four-year term. Dr. Benjamin also oversaw the operational command of 6,700 uniformed public health officers who serve in locations around the world to promote, and protect the health of the American People. Dr. Benjamin served simultaneously as Surgeon General and as the first chair of the National Prevention, Health Promotion, and Public Health Council (National Prevention Council) ─ 17 cabinet-level Federal agencies that developed the road map for the Nation's health – The National Prevention Strategy.
Before becoming "America's Doctor," she served her patients at the rural health clinic she founded in tiny, Bayou La Batre, Alabama, keeping the clinic in operation despite damage and destruction inflicted by Hurricanes Georges (1998) and Katrina (2005) and a devastating fire (2006).
She has a B.S. in chemistry from Xavier University of Louisiana, an M.D. degree from the University of Alabama at Birmingham and an M.B.A. from Tulane University. She attended Morehouse School of Medicine and completed her family medicine residency in Macon, Georgia. Dr. Benjamin is the recipient of 22 honorary degrees.
Excerpt from SurgeonGeneral.gov website, http://www.surgeongeneral.gov/about/previous/biobenjamin.html. Accessed February 2014. Please visit for full biography.
Mae C. JemisonAstronaut
Mae C. Jemison was born on October 17, 1956, in Decatur, Alabama. On June 4, 1987, she became the first African-American woman to be admitted into the astronaut training program. On September 12, 1992, Jemison finally flew into space with six other astronauts aboard the Endeavour on mission STS47, becoming the first African-American woman in space. In recognition of her accomplishments, Jemison has received several awards and honorary doctorates.
After leaving the astronaut corps in March 1993, Jemison accepted a teaching fellowship at Dartmouth. She also established the Jemison Group, a company that seeks to research, develop and market advanced technologies.
Excerpt from The Biography Channel website, http://www.biography.com/people/mae-c-jemison-9542378. Please visit for full biography. © 2014 A+E Networks. All rights reserved.
Arican-American engineer and inventor Lonnie G. Johnson was born in Alabama in 1949. After graduating from Tuskegee University with a master's degree, Johnson joined the U.S. Air Force and was assigned to the Strategic Air Command, where he helped develop the stealth bomber program. His other assignments included working as a systems engineer for the Galileo mission to Jupiter and the Cassini mission to Saturn. Johnson also created the Super Soaker squirt gun, which became one of the most popular toys in the world.
Propelled by the success of the Super Soaker, Lonnie Johnson founded his own company, Johnson Research & Development, and went on to acquire more than 100 patents. Some of his inventions, including a ceramic battery and hair rollers that set without heat, have achieved commercial success. Others, including a diaper that plays a nursery rhyme when soiled, failed to catch on. In recent years, however, Johnson developed one of his most ambitious and important inventions to date: the Johnson Thermoelectric Energy Converter, an advanced heat engine that can reportedly convert solar energy into electricity with twice the efficiency of current methods, and without any moving parts. While it remains only a prototype, the JTEC has the potential to make solar power competitive with coal, at long last fulfilling the dream of efficient, renewable solar energy.
For his work on the JTEC, Lonnie Johnson received the Breakthrough Award from Popular Mechanics in 2008. More recently, he has been working with the Palo Alto Research Center Incorporated in California to further fund and develop the JTEC. He is hoping that the converter will be operable in the next several years.
In 2011, Johnson was inducted into the State of Alabama Engineering Hall of Fame. Johnson and his wife Linda Moore have four children and live in the Ansley Park neighborhood of Atlanta, Georgia.
Excerpt from The Biography Channel website, http://www.biography.com/people/lonnie-g-johnson-17112946. Please visit for more information. © 2014 A+E Networks. All rights reserved.
Simmie Lee KnoxArtist
A graduate of Tyler School of Art at Temple University (BFA, Magna Cum Laude, MFA) in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Simmie Knox as an artist has specialized in oil portraiture since 1981. Prior to that, he taught at various colleges, universities, and public schools in Delaware, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Washington, D.C. During the 1970's, Simmie exhibited as an abstract artist and worked for the Museum of African Art in Washington, D.C. In 1971, he participated in the Thirty-Second Biennial of Contemporary American Painting at The Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. with his abstract art.
He turned to portraiture after years of painting a wide variety of paintings because he found that there is nothing more challenging and interesting to paint than the human face. He states "I think that a good portrait is the most difficult thing for an artist to bring off successfully. Not only must you get an accurate likeness, but you must also create a good painting. Somehow you must convey a subject's character, spirit, and personality; portrait and everything must communicate the dynamism of the subject."
Simmie has been commissioned by private individuals, organizations, and institutions and has painted portraits of a U.S. Supreme Court Justice, a U.S. cabinet member, U.S. congressmen and state senators, a mayor of New York City, respected civic leaders, sports figures, entertainment celebrities, educators, judges, religious leaders, military officers, businessmen, and private individuals. Simmie's portraits of Bill and Hillary Rodham Clinton were unveiled in the East Room of the White House on June 14, 2004. He is the first African-American commissioned to paint a presidential portrait.
Excerpt Simmie Lee Knox's official website, http://www.simmieknox.com. Please visit for more information.
Also see online article, Man in the News; From Doodles to Clintons -- Simmie Lee Knox by Lynette Clemetson, The New York Times, published June 15, 2004.
Closing date: February 28, 2014.