George W. Gore Jr. ’23 laid claim to a few DePauw firsts. He was a member of DePauw’s first class of Rector Scholars and the scholarship’s first Black graduate.
But those are the least of his contributions to history.
Gore arrived at DePauw in 1919 by way of Tennessee, which disqualified him from receiving a Rector Scholarship as an incoming student. Instead, Gore earned the scholarship the same way early Rector women did: by outperforming the recipients.
“And that,” he told classmates during a 50th reunion address, “made it possible for me to return to DePauw and complete the last three years."
Gore went on to earn a master’s degree from Harvard University and a Ph.D. from Columbia University before joining the journalism faculty at Tennessee State University. He served there as dean until 1950, when he became president of Florida A&M College, now Florida A&M University (FAMU).
At FAMU, Gore walked a political tightrope as he balanced the moral and financial needs of a Black institution during the civil rights era. A growing contingent in the Florida Capitol wanted to merge FAMU into Florida State University. And back on campus, Gore frustrated many by withholding open support for their activism.
But FAMU never merged with Florida State. Instead, it rose to university status and further expanded its academic prestige. And in spite of Gore's caution, FAMU's students and faculty became leaders in Tallahassee’s civil rights movement.
In 1968, following the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., student protests took hold at FAMU. Sensing it was time for a new method of leadership, Gore resigned.
George W. Gore Jr. passed away in 1982. He is buried with his wife, Pearl Winrow, in his native Nashville. His legacy lives on in physical form at DePauw’s Gore House and at FAMU’s Gore Education Complex.
(Photos: State Archives of Florida)