50th Anniversary of First African American Graduates at Berry College 

Fifty years ago, Evelyn Hamilton and Beverly Smith graduated from Berry College – becoming the school’s first African American graduates. Their achievement and success was celebrated at a recent gala hosted by Berry College’s African American Alumni Chapter.

Hamilton and Smith were recognized at the Christopher Browning Pavilion at Oak Hill in a night of remembrance, fellowship and appreciation for their efforts that have changed the path for many. Berry faculty, students, alumni and community members attended to acknowledge these women as trailblazers. Berry integrated in the fall of 1964.

Hamilton, who in 1969 earned a B.S. in home economics, is retired from the Floyd County Department of Family and Children Services.

“I can remember my first day at Berry because it was the beginning of something that had never happened in Rome or Floyd County before,” Hamilton said. “The atmosphere was not what I thought it would be from watching other states and colleges that had integrated…you saw the violence, the water and the dogs, but we had none of that when we entered on the first day here at Berry.”

Smith, who earned a B.A. in English in 1969, a master’s degree in supervision and administration and a Ph.D. in educational leadership, is a retired educator.

“Berry has made it possible for me not only to be an asset to the community, but for myself and for the family I have now,” Smith said. “My children are very productive, they are supervisors and managers. I used to take them to classes with me and they had to sit across the hall in empty classrooms because I told them that education is extremely important and you don’t ever stop learning.”

The keynote speaker for the evening was Judge Glenda A. Hatchett, an attorney, television personality and Georgia native. Berry President Steve Briggs, Mayor of Rome Bill Collins and Berry African American Alumni President Brenda Thompson also spoke.

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