A Man of Morehouse
When you think of Morehouse College, you think of tradition -a tradition of higher learning for African-American college students. When you go back seventy-five years, you think of a day unlike today when a mere few, the lucky few, had the opportunity to attend an institution of higher learning, much less one with the honorable tradition as Morehouse. For nearly four decades, one Laurens County native helped the school rise to the prominence it still retains today.
Brailsford Reese Brazeal was born in Dublin, Georgia on March 8, 1903. The son of the Rev. George Reese Brazeal and Walton Troup Brazeal, young Brailsford attended Georgia State College and Ballard Normal School in Macon. Late in his life Dr. Brazeal recalled that it was his Baptist preacher father's guidance and teachings that kindled his imagination as to what was beyond his neighborhood. Brazeal recalled that his mother and his oldest aunt, Flora L. Troup pushed him to leave Dublin because he wouldn't be able to obtain anything but an elementary education in Dublin. His uncle and namesake Brailsford Troup gave him a job during summers as a carpenter's helper. Brazeal realized that the life of a laborer is not what he wanted and promised himself that he would do all that he could to break the barriers of race and segregation.
He completed his studies at Morehouse Academy, a high school, in 1923. While at Morehouse College, Brazeal came to know Dr. Benjamin E. Mays, who served as his debate coach in college and would later serve as President of Morehouse. After graduating from Morehouse in 1927, Brazeal continued his studies and obtained a master's degree in Economics from the ultimately prestigious Columbia University in 1928.
Salute to Dr. Brazeal, Morehouse College 2013Brazeal was immediately hired as a Professor of Economics by Dr. John Hope, his alma mater's first black president. By 1934, Brazeal was chosen to chair the Department of Economics and Business. He was also selected to serve as the Dean of Men, a post which he held until 1936.
In his early years at Morehouse, Brailsford met and married Ernestine Erskine of Jackson, Mississippi. Mrs. Brazeal was a graduate of Spellman College in Atlanta. An educator in her own right, Mrs. Brazeal held a Master's Degree in American History from the University of Chicago. She taught at Spelman and served for many years as the Alumni Secretary. To those who knew and loved her, Mrs. Brazeal was known to the be the superlative historian of Spelman History, though she never published the culmination of her vast knowledge.
The Brazeals were the parents of two daughters. Aurelia Brazeal is a career diplomat and has recently served as the United States Ambassador to Ethopia, Kenya and Micronesia. Ernestine Brazeal has long been an advocate for the Headstart Program.
The Brazeal home in Atlanta was often a home away from home for Morehouse students. Especially present were the freshmen who inhabited the home on weekends and after supper for the fellowship and guidance from the Brazeals. Among these students were the nation's greatest civil rights leader, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Maynard Jackson, the first black mayor of Atlanta. It was Dr. Brazeal, who first recommended the young minister for acceptance at Crozer Theological Seminary in Pennsylvania. Dr. Brazeal wrote that King would mix well with the white race. The Brazeal's bought the four square home near Morehouse in 1940. Today, the home at 193 Ashby Street (now Joseph Lowery Boulevard) was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2005.
Through scholarships, Brailsford Brazeal was named a Julius Rosenwald Fellow and in 1942, obtained his Ph. D. from Columbia University in economics. As a part of his doctoral dissertation, Dr. Brazeal wrote about the formation of the of one of the first labor unions for black workers. In 1946, Brazeal published his signature work The Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters. For decades, labor researchers often cited Brazeal's writings in his landmark work and other papers and journal articles.
During the 1950s, Brazeal worked in voter registration movements. He wrote extensively about racial discrimination in voting, especially in his native state. He detailed many of the activities in his home county of Laurens. In his Studies of Negro Voting in Eight Rural Counties in Georgia and One in South Carolina, Brazeal examined and wrote of the efforts of H.H. Dudley and C.H. Harris to promote more black participation in voting in Laurens County. He chronicled the wars between the well entrenched county sheriff Carlus Gay and State Representative Herschel Lovett and their desire and competition for the black vote. He wrote of fair employment practices, desegregation of higher education, voter disfranchisement of black voters, voter registration, and many other civil rights matters.
The members of the National Association of College Deans elected Dr. Brazeal as their president in 1947. Brazeal a member of the Executive Committee of the American Conference of Academic Deans and as a vice-president of the American Baptist Educational Institutions.
During his career Dr. Brazeal was a member of the American Economic Association, the Academy of Political Science, the Southern Sociological Society, the Advisory Council of Academic Freedom Committee of the American Civil Liberties Union, the N.A.A.C.P., the Twenty Seven Club, Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Sigma Pi Phil, Delta Sigma Rho and the Friendship Baptist Church.
In 1967, Dr. Brazeal was inducted into the prestigious national honor society, Phi Beta Kappa as an alumni member of Delta Chapter of Columbia University. He organized a chapter at Morehouse, known to many as one of the "Ivy League" schools for African Americans.
Dr. Brazeal retired in 1972 after a career of more than forty years, many of which he served as Dean of the College. At the age of seventy eight he died in Atlanta on April 22, 1981. His body lies next to that of his wife, who died in 2002, in Southview Cemetery in Atlanta.