Troy University Board of Trustees member Lamar Higgins was born in Marbury, Alabama, a small town in the center of the state, close to Prattville.
Higgins began attending school while segregation was still in full effect. He attended a segregated school, until his fifth grade year.
According to Higgins, going from his previous school to the now-integrated Marbury High School was a big change, especially in terms of the school facilities.
“My class actually had two grades in it at one time,” he said, describing his previous school. “The first and second grade would be in one teacher’s room, and then the second and third grade would be in another teacher’s room.
“Going from classrooms with 65 people in it to going to a huge building that only had 32 people in a huge room — I just wasn’t accustomed to the kind of facilities that were at Marbury High School.”
Higgins graduated from high school in 1977 and enrolled at Troy State University that fall. He lived in Alumni Hall, which stood where Rushing Hall is today.
After being active in student government during his time in high school, Higgins quickly got involved with the Student Government Association at Troy.
He ran for Alumni Hall senator, then ran for senator-at-large.
He was later appointed as vice president of SGA, before finally running for SGA president twice. He won, becoming Troy’s first black SGA president.
“It was great,” Higgins said of his campaign and victory. “I had wide, diverse support. I was — I am — a member of Alpha Phi Alpha, so I had Greek support, non-Greek support, black, white, and I think we won with about 78% of the vote the first time.”
But, Higgins said not everyone was thrilled with the changes coming to campus.
Higgins said that after becoming president, the SGA changed the way that homecoming elections were organized.
Shortly after, students elected Troy’s first black homecoming queen.
After that, Higgins said the Tropolitan staff, at that time, ran an offensive cartoon, depicting a figure wearing Ku Klux Klan regalia warning campus organizations something along the lines of, “First the SGA, then homecoming. They’re coming for you next.”
Seeing this, Higgins said students quickly located all copies of the paper and removed them from campus. An underground paper was formed, which published the first color photograph of the homecoming court.
“It was just something that, we just felt like, the students deserved a newspaper for homecoming, so we founded it just for a year,” Higgins said.
Higgins majored in social science and economics. After leaving Troy, he went on to begin working for Alabama Gov. Forrest “Fob” James as a legislative aide.
After working for James, Higgins worked for the Department of Postsecondary Education.
He later went on to work for Justice Oscar Adams, Alabama’s first black Supreme Court justice.
Next, he moved to Huntsville, where he was the assistant director of human resources for the Space and Rocket Center before he worked for Huntsville’s mayor for two years.
After that, Higgins moved back to Montgomery as the assistant director for the Department of Economic and Community Affairs.
In 1996, he was appointed to the board of trustees at Troy. Higgins said the focus of the board has been simple – students.
“We’ve always had a board and an administration that is student-oriented,” he said.
“We’ve worked with the administration to make sure we provide a quality education and a safe environment by qualified instructors. We’ve worked well together with the administration and the board over the past years.”
“I won’t say there’s been any challenges, I can’t remember any that really stick out,” he continued.
“I’ve been really fortunate to be able to come to Troy University, get a great education and be able to come back and try to give back to the university and to the community for the things that I’ve been fortunate enough to participate in and go through because of Troy University.”
Higgins said his two proudest moments have been being appointed vice president pro-temp of the board last year, and opening the Rosa Parks Museum in Montgomery in 2001.
Higgins said opening the museum took some work.
He said Parks hadn’t been previously affiliated with the University, and also hadn’t been recognized in such a way before.
“That was an amazing feeling to be able to honor a civil rights icon the way we did, and I think that was the thing to do,” he said.
Higgins said that this month is a crucial time to come together and remember how we got to where we are today.
“I think that what people don’t realize is celebrating Black History Month is not just carving out and segregating a portion of our history, it’s making sure that part of our history is being told accurately,” Higgins said.
“I think one of the issues that we have right now, and not just in the black community but in America, is that we’re not prepared to interact and to build relationships with people who don’t look like us, who don’t go to the same church as we do, who have different political beliefs, and I think we have to do a better job of reminding people of their history and where they came from, and the struggles that they had to come through.
“Just like Rosa Parks and the Civil Rights history is a part of our history, so is the Civil War. So we just have to remember that what’s important to me may not be important to you, and what’s important to you may not be important to me, but when we work together to make sure that everybody’s story is told then I think that we have been successful.”