Classroom Named in Farmer’s Honor

We still have “mountains to climb and rivers to cross” in the struggle for civil rights, Georgia Sen. Nan Grogan Orrock ’65 told a crowd gathered in Monroe Hall in November. Her speech, the centerpiece of the James L. Farmer Lecture Hall dedication, highlighted the power of “ordinary people” like the late James Farmer to forward the journey toward justice for all. Farmer, who founded the Congress of Racial Equality, taught history at Mary Washington for more than a decade. One of America’s top civil rights leaders, he shared his experiences with thousands of UMW students, his resonant voice filling Monroe 104, the auditorium that now bears his name. “It is indeed right and appropriate that we recognize James Farmer in this room in which he touched so many students,” said Jeffrey W. McClurken ’94, professor and chair of history and American studies, who was one of those students. Farmer organized the 1961 Freedom Rides that led to desegregated interstate travel. He had a … [Read more...]

Impatient for Justice

Equal rights visionary took unpopular stand

Just about every college student finds one person who shines through the crowd and influences classmates for the good. For me, that person was Nan Grogan. When I was a freshman in 1963, she was the super-serious junior who was pushing the rest of us to join the civil rights movement. At her urging, I tutored poor black Fredericksburg children in a YWCA after-school program. I didn’t really know Nan back then, but I never forgot her. A few years ago I Googled her name and learned that since my first memories of her more than 50 years ago she has never stopped being an activist. Nan Grogan Orrock ’65 is among the South’s most veteran and well-respected advocates of social change. She is one of the longest-serving and most progressive members of the Georgia legislature and has left her mark on every sector of social justice: civil rights, women’s rights, worker rights, gay rights, environmental rights. She’s chased after cross-burning Ku Klux Klansmen, cut sugar cane in … [Read more...]