About Benjamin Mays
Dr. Benjamin E. Mays
Benjamin Elijah Mays, educator, was born in 1895 in South Carolina and graduated from Bates College in Maine in 1920. He attended the University of Chicago for his master’s degree and doctorate, and, while he was working on those degrees, was ordained into the Baptist ministry. He taught at Morehouse College and at South Carolina State College. From 1934 to 1940 he served as dean of the Howard University School of Religion and then moved on to the presidency of Morehouse College, a position he held for the next quarter century. He also served the broader Atlanta community as well, becoming the first black president of the Atlanta school board.
Dr. Mays spoke early and often against segregation and for education. He received nearly thirty honorary doctorates and other honors and awards including election to the Schomburg Honor Roll of Race Relations, one of a dozen major leaders so honored. He was a model for one of his Morehouse students, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and later served as an unofficial senior adviser for Dr. King. Benjamin Mays gave the eulogy at King’s funeral.
Among Mays’ books were the first sociological study of African American religion, The Negro’s Church, published in 1933; The Negro’s God (1938); Disturbed about Man (1969); and his autobiography, Born to Rebel (1971). These books reveal a combination of sharp intellect, religious commitment, and prophetic conviction. Benjamin E. Mays died in 1984.