Morris Brown College

Morris Brown College

Historic Fountain Hall, 1979
Former names
Morris Brown Colored College
Motto To GOD and Truth
Type Private, HBCU[1]
Established 1881
Affiliation African Methodist Episcopal Church[2]
President Dr. Stanley J. Pritchett
Address 643 Martin Luther King Jr. Dr. Atlanta, Georgia 30314, Atlanta, Georgia,
United States[2]

33°45′17″N 84°24′32″W / 33.754778°N 84.408931°W / 33.754778; -84.408931Coordinates: 33°45′17″N 84°24′32″W / 33.754778°N 84.408931°W / 33.754778; -84.408931
Campus 21-acre (84,984.0 m2), Urban[2]
Colors Purple and Black
Sports Discontinued 2003
Nickname MBC
Mascot Wolverines and Lady Wolverines

Morris Brown College (MBC) is a private, coed, liberal arts college located in the Vine City community of Atlanta, Georgia, United States. It is a historically black college affiliated with the African Methodist Episcopal Church. Although Morris Brown College is no longer a member of the Atlanta University Center Consortium, it is located within the Atlanta University Center (a district designated by the Atlanta City Council).

In 2002 it lost its accreditation and federal funding due to a financial mismanagement scandal during the 1998–2002 tenure of Dolores Cross as school president. The United Negro College Fund also terminated its support for the college.[3]

In August 2012, Morris Brown filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in an attempt to prevent foreclosure and sale of the school at auction.[4] In October 2015, the campus was still open, but dependent upon volunteer faculty and staff.[5]

Baseball team in 1900


Morris Brown offered baccalaureate degrees in Management, Entrepreneurship, and Technology (for traditional students) and Organizational Management and Leadership (for Adult Degree matriculants).[2]


As of 2011, Morris Brown is in a "Self-Study" phase of the accreditation process with Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools and is looking to reapply in October 2012. Until 2003, Morris Brown was accredited by a regional accreditor, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS). Morris Brown was more than $23 million in debt and was on probation in 2001 with SACS for shoddy bookkeeping and a shortage of professors with advanced degrees. In December 2002, SACS revoked Morris Brown's accreditation. Almost eight years later, the college settled its nearly $10 million debt with the Department of Education.[6]



The Morris Brown Colored College (its original name) was founded in 1881 by African Americans affiliated with the African Methodist Episcopal Church and named to honor the denomination's second bishop, Morris Brown. The AME Church sent missionaries to the South following the American Civil War, and they founded numerous new AME churches in Georgia and other states, as hundreds of thousands of freedmen joining new congregations.

On January 5, 1881, the North Georgia Annual Conference of the AME Church passed a resolution to establish an educational institution in Atlanta for the moral, spiritual, and intellectual growth of Negro boys and girls. The school formally opened its doors on October 15, 1885, with 107 students and nine teachers. Morris Brown was the first educational institution in Georgia to be owned and operated independently by African Americans.[7] For more than a century, the college enrolled many students from poor backgrounds, large numbers of whom returned to their hometowns as teachers, as education was a mission of high priority.

Fountain Hall, originally known as Stone Hall when occupied by Atlanta University, was completed in 1882. It is closely associated with the history of the college and has been designated a National Historic Landmark. After Atlanta University consolidated its facilities, it leased the building to Morris Brown College, which renamed it Fountain Hall.[8]

Embezzlement prosecution

Eighty percent of the school's 2,500 students received financial aid from the federal government, totaling $8 million annually in the early 2000s. Under the Federal Government's grant-in-aid, college student financial aid program, accredited (by a recognized collegiate accreditation body) universities' request of the Department of Education reimbursing grants in aid; for each semester/quarter hour enrolled of (financially) qualifying students; who, the university's Registrar; and, accountable fiscal officer, jointly certify (to the grant-in-aid Administrator of the Department of Education) as being enrolled as full and/or part-time graduate or undergraduate students. The university also has further certified to its accreditation body that it is conducting an academic semester (or quarter) as approved for it, by its accreditor, as to overall semester/quarter length, and actual number of in-classroom clock-hours per semester (or quarter) hour to be awarded, in each classroom course offered.

A federal criminal case was filed against the former president, Dolores Cross, and the financial aid director (the accountable fiscal officer), Parvesh Singh, alleging that they had, on behalf of the university, submitted to the Department of Education (the grant administrator) false declarations of enrollment of students for semesters when, in the specified semesters, the students identified in the declarations had not, in fact, been enrolled. Since the grant-in-aid program's structure required the federal funds received to be applied to each individual enrolled student's account, the two school officers committed their second offense ofembezzlement when they unlawfully applied these funds directly to ineligible college costs, such as for paying of personal staff, instead of applying the funds to offset individual students' enrollment expenses.

In 2002, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools revoked the college's accreditation because of its financial problems. Cross and Singh were charged in December 2004 in a 34-count indictment that accused them of defrauding the school, the U.S. Department of Education, and hundreds of students. The pair, who had first worked together at a college in Chicago, Illinois, were convicted of using the names of hundreds of students, ex-students, and people who were never enrolled to obtain financial aid for the school.[9]

During the time Cross held the college presidency, from November 1998 through February 2002, Singh obtained about 1,800 payments from federally insured loans and Pell grants for these students, who had no idea they would be responsible for paying off the loans, the indictment said.[10] Singh pleaded guilty to one count of embezzlement. Singh, 64, also received five years of probation but 18 months of home confinement.[9]

At the time of the 2004 indictment, Cross was teaching at DePaul University in Chicago.[11] On May 1, 2006, Cross pleaded guilty to fraud by embezzlement.[12] She agreed to pay $11,000 to the Department of Education in restitution.

Morris Brown College's Herndon Stadium was the site of the field hockey competitions during the 1996 Summer Olympics. The stadium is designed to seat 15,000 spectators.[2]

On January 3, 2007, Cross was sentenced to five years of probation and one year of home confinement for the fraud. Cross, 70 years old, suffers from sleep apnea and has had a series of small strokes, factors the judge took into consideration. An additional factor the judge considered for each person was that they did not use the embezzled funds for personal profit, but to prop up the school's poor finances.[9] The initial indictment said Cross had used the funds to finance personal trips for herself, her family, and friends.[13]

The prosecutor, U.S. Attorney David Nahmias, said at the sentencing: "When the defendants arrived at Morris Brown, the college was already in serious financial condition. Thereafter, these defendants misappropriated ... money in fairly complicated ways in what appears to have been a misguided and ultimately criminal attempt to keep Morris Brown afloat."[3]

Uncertain future

The school has $22 million in long-term debt and $5 million in short-term debt. Both the alumni association and the African Methodist Episcopal Church have pledged to keep the school from closing. As of January 2009, Morris Brown has 240 students.[14]

Morris Brown College, at one point reduced to an enrollment of just 44 students, continues to operate as a scaled-down version of its former self.[15] In 2004, Dr. Samuel D. Jolley, who had been the school's president from 1993 to 1997, agreed to return to the presidency to help the college's attempts to recover.

"Morris Brown", a song by Atlanta hip hop duo OutKast off their 2006 release Idlewild, features a performance from the Morris Brown College Marching Wolverines.

The school hoped to have 107 students in fall 2006, the same number when the school opened in 1881, but failed to meet that goal. Tuition in the fall semester of 2006 was $3,500, but without accreditation, students cannot obtain federal or state financial aid for their tuition and other school expenses.

By February 2007, MBC had 54 students in two degree programs, supported by 7 faculty and staff employees.[16] Despite this, after the sentencing of two former administrators, the chair of the college's board of trustees, Bishop William Phillips DeVeaux, issued a press release stating the college would move forward and that "This sad chapter in the college's history is now closed."[3]

In addition to civil lawsuits filed by former and current students, Morris Brown faces a civil suit for defaulting on a $13 million property bond, a case that eventually could lead to foreclosure on some of the college's most historic buildings, including its administration building, attorneys involved in the case say. The complaint asks for $10.7 million in principal owed on the loan agreement, $1.5 million in interest and a per diem of $2,100 for each day Morris Brown does not pay.

In December 2008, the City of Atlanta disconnected water service to the college because of an overdue water bill.[17] The debt has since been paid and the service restored.

The 2002 film Drumline and the 2007 film Stomp the Yard were partly filmed on the campus of Morris Brown. In 2006 Warner Brothers filmed We Are Marshall in the football stadium.

Radio personality Tom Joyner made several offers to buy the troubled college from 2002 through 2004, during the worst of the accreditation and fraud crises. In 2003, his charitable foundation gave the school $1 million to assist with its immediate needs.[11]

The school faced foreclosure in September 2012.[18]

In June 2013, Morris Brown's board of trustees rejected a $9.7 million offer from the city of Atlanta. However, negotiations continued and mid-year in 2014 Morris Brown reached an agreement with Invest Atlanta, Atlanta's economic development agency.[19] The offer eliminated the school's $35 million debt by purchasing the 37 acres on which the college sits, paying the school's creditors, and paying $480,000 in back pay owed to professors and staff. The college will be able to retain use of several historic buildings for educational purposes. The city's administration wishes to revitalize the area around Morris Brown; the site of the new Atlanta Falcons stadium is just east of the campus. Mayor Kasim Reed said that the city has no interest in operating the school, and that it would be illegal for them to do so.[20]

Several of Morris Brown's buildings are in an extreme state of disrepair and have been heavily damaged, including Herndon Stadium, the Middleton Twin Towers dorm, Gaines Hall and Furber Cottage. Gaines Hall was heavily damaged by a two-alarm fire in August 2015.[21] Mayor Reed indicated in August 2015 that he would like to see the city help preserve the building.[22]


The college briefly had a NCAA Division I athletics program, until it lost accreditation.

The Morris Brown Wolverines football program played at Herndon Stadium on campus until the program was discontinued. The stadium has since been heavily damaged by looters,

Notable alumni

This is a list of notable alumni which includes graduates, non-graduate former students, and current students of Morris Brown College.

This is a dynamic list and may never be able to satisfy particular standards for completeness. You can help by expanding it with reliably sourced entries.
Name Class year Notability Reference(s)
Eula Adams executive vice president for First Data Corporation [23]
George Atkinson former NFL defensive back for the Oakland Raiders [23]
Isaac Blythers president of Atlanta Gas Light Company [23]
Thomas Byrd television, film and stage actor [23]
Solomon Brannan former AFL defensive back for the Kansas Chiefs and New York Jets [24]
Derrick Boazman 1990 local Atlanta radio talk show host and former Atlanta city councilman
Ezell Brown Educational entrepreneur, founder of Education Online Services Corporation [23]
Gloria Etchison (Cain) 1968 wife of Herman Cain [23]
Marilyn Cunningham-Kenoly 1979 Chief Technology Officer, MarilynKenolyInc [23]
Donte Curry former NFL linebacker for Carolina Panthers and Detroit Lions [23]
Albert J. Edmonds Retired Lt. Gen. of the United States Air Force [23]
Zinta Greene Perkins 1979 Principal, Pebblebrook High School, Marietta, GA [23]
Tommy Hart former NFL defensive end for the San Francisco 49ers [23]
Alfred Jenkins Former NFL and WFL wide receiver Atlanta Falcons 1975–1983 and Birmingham Americans 1974
Ezra Johnson former NFL defensive end for the Green Bay Packers and Indianapolis Colts [25]
James Alan McPherson Pulitzer Prize-winning author [23]
Billy Nicks former head football coach of Morris Brown and Prairie View A&M University [23]
Sommore Comedian and member of the Queens of Comedy [23]
Hosea Williams civil rights activist [23]
Charles W. Chappelle attended late 1880s Aviation pioneer, International Businessman, President of the African-American Union, Electrical Engineer and Architect/Construction ,[26][27]
Andre Spivey Software and Tech Entrepreneur Live 2 Learn Differently [23]


  1. "List of HBCUs -- White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities". 2007-08-16. Retrieved 2008-01-03.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 "Visitor". Morris Brown College. Archived from the original on 2008-01-08. Retrieved 2008-01-25.
  3. 1 2 3 "Ex-president of Morris Brown gets probation". Atlanta Journal-Constitution. 2007-01-04. Retrieved 2007-01-04.
  4. Atlanta Journal Constitution (August 25, 2012). "Morris Brown College seeks federal protection, hopes to prevent auction of campus". Retrieved August 27, 2012.
  5. Donovan Ramsey (October 28, 2015). "The Rise, Fall, and Improbable Comeback of Morris Brown College". Retrieved November 6, 2015.
  6. Associated Press (August 23, 2011). "Morris Brown pays off debt to US government". Retrieved August 23, 2011.
  7. "Morris Brown College founded". The African American Registry website. Archived from the original on 2007-12-01.
  8. "Stone Hall, Atlanta University". National Park Service. Retrieved 2009-02-26.
  9. 1 2 3 "Former college president gets probation for $3.4M embezzlement". Associated Press. 2007-01-03. Archived from the original on 2007-01-06. Retrieved 2007-01-04.
  10. "Federal Indictment Accuses Former Morris Brown President and Aid Officer of $5-Million Fraud". Chronicle of Higher Education. 2004-12-10. Archived from the original on August 30, 2008. Retrieved 2007-01-04.
  11. 1 2 Powell, Tracie (2004-12-30). "Former Morris Brown College president, financial aid director indicted for fraud". Black Issues in Higher Education. Retrieved 2007-01-04.
  12. Romano, Lois (2006-05-01). "Morris Brown College". Washington Post. Retrieved 2010-05-13.
  13. "Ex-President of Morris Brown College Pleads Guilty to Embezzlement". The Chronicle of Higher Education. 2006-05-01. Retrieved 2007-01-04.
  14. Shelton, Stacy (2009-01-03). "Water flowing again at Morris Brown". Atlanta Journal Constitution. Retrieved 2009-01-03.
  15. Incomplete citation for May 2006 article in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
  16. Jones, Andrea (2007-02-24). "Morris Brown Marks 126 Years". Metro News, 1B. Atlanta Journal Constitution.
  17. "Water Shut Off At Historic Atlanta College For Unpaid Bill". WSB-TV. December 21, 2008. Archived from the original on 4 March 2009. Retrieved 4 June 2009.
  18. Ernie Suggs (August 24, 2012). "With foreclosure looming, Morris Brown College on the brink". Retrieved 24 August 2012.
  19. "Invest Atlanta approves purchase of Morris Brown College".
  20. "Morris Brown trustees turn down taxpayer money". Associated Press. June 8, 2013. Retrieved 18 June 2013.
  21. "Atlanta Preservation Center".
  22. "Reed: We are going to find a way to preserve Gaines Hall". Atlanta Business Chronicle.
  23. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 "College Information". Morris Brown College. Archived from the original on 2007-12-21. Retrieved 2008-01-25.
  24. "Solomon Brannan". Sports Reference LLC. Retrieved 31 July 2014.
  25. "Ezra Johnson Statistics".
  26. "Charles Chappelle Deeply Mourned." The Pittsburgh Courier, (City Edition, Pittburgh, PA). Page 2. March 1, 1941.
  27. “Mr. C.W. Chappelle: The Man, His Life, His Work And His Aspirations.” The Gold Coast Nation. Page 3. June 28, 1919. Ghana.

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