Griffith J. Davis, 1923 - 1993
Benjamin Elijah Mays, 1 Aug 1894 - 28 Mar 1984
Gelatin silver print
Image/Sheet: 24.3cm x 18.8cm (9 9/16" x 7 3/8")
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution
Born Epworth, South Carolina
A passionate believer in the power of education, Benjamin Mays left South Carolina, where his parents were tenant farmers, in 1916 to attend Bates College in Maine. After earning MA and PhD degrees from the University of Chicago, he taught at Howard University in Washington, D.C. In 1940 he became president of Morehouse College in Atlanta, where he served until 1967. There he taught and befriended Martin Luther King Jr. and had the sad duty of giving the eulogy at his funeral in 1968. King called him “my spiritual mentor and my intellectual father.” Photographer Griffith Davis was a student at Morehouse; he photographed Mays as he waited for a train to Atlanta at New York City’s Penn Station.