Living Legacy

James Farmer’s Lessons Still Shape and Inspire

By Emily Freehling Nearly 500 people came to the University Center’s Chandler Ballroom in January to celebrate the 100th birthday of Dr. James Farmer, a civil rights icon who spent his final years sharing his first-person account of history with students at Mary Washington. “Thirty-five years ago, he became a part of the Mary Washington Community,” UMW President Troy Paino said of Farmer, who taught the history of the civil rights movement at Mary Washington from 1985 until shortly before his death in 1999. “He left us a legacy.” At UMW, 2020 is a year of reflection on that legacy. Former students remember Farmer’s deep, warm voice, which would at times burst into song. He captivated them with tales of fighting to change the status quo in Jim Crow America, and urged them to remember that the fight for equality and social justice has no endpoint. “He was a human history book,” said Rich Cooper ’90, who not only took Farmer’s class but also served as his driver and … [Read more...]