James Leonard Farmer, a former resident of Spotsylvania County, was born in Marshall, Texas on January 12, 1920. He had an unquenchable passion to eliminate de jure racial segregation. Mr. Farmer earned a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) degree from Wiley College in 1938 and received the Bachelor of Divinity (B.D.) degree from Howard University School of Religion in 1941. He received numerous honorary degrees including a Doctorate of Human Letters from Mary Washington College.
James Farmer published 75 to 100 articles in various national magazines, political science journals, newspapers, and law journals. He is the author of two books, Freedom When, published in 1965, and Lay Bare the Heart: An Autobiography of the Civil Rights Movement, published in 1985.
James Farmer was appointed by former President Richard Nixon to the post of Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare.
James Farmer retired from Mary Washington College as Distinguished College Professor of History and American Studies in 1998. Other positions previously held by Dr. Farmer include serving as the Virginia Commonwealth Professor of History at Mary Washington College, teaching for the College Education at New York University, serving as Professor of Social Welfare at Lincoln University, and holding a Distinguished Professorship at Antioch University.
James Farmer was a distinguished Civil Rights leader, who in 1942 established The Congress Racial Equality (CORE ). He served as the National Director of CORE from 1961 to 1966. Mr. Farmer served as assistant secretary for the U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare (HEW) in the Nixon administration for one year. In May 1987, Mr. Farmer was presented the Hubert H. Humphrey Civil Rights Award at Leadership Conference on Civil Rights in Washington, D.C. On January 15, 1998. President Clinton presented Dr. Farmer the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Virginia Power also honored him with the Excellence in Leadership Award in January 1999. On July 9, 1999, Dr. Farmer died peacefully at Mary Washington Hospital in Fredericksburg, Virginia.
Degrees and Honors:
- Doctor of Humane Letters Adelphi University, New York, 2/2/94
- Doctor of Laws Butler University, Indiana, 5/13/95
- Doctor of Laws University of Rhode Island, 5/23/93
- Doctor of Humane Letters Jersey City State College, New Jersey, 6/3/69
- Doctor of Humanities Manchester College, Indiana 5/23/72
- Doctor of Literature DePaul University, Illinois, 1970
- Doctor of Letters St. Francis College, Maine, 5/23/70
- Doctor of Public Service Central Michigan University, 6/69
- Doctor of Humanities The University of the Americas, Mexico D.F. 5/70
- Doctor of Laws Capital University, Ohio 5/18/85
- Doctor of Humane Letters John Jay College of Criminal Justice, New York, 6/4/89
- Doctor of Laws Baker University, Kansas 6/1/69
- Doctor of Laws Anderson College, Indiana, 6/14/71
- Doctor of Humanities Morgan State College, Maryland, 6/1/64
- Doctor of Laws Central State University, Ohio, 6/13/77
- Doctor of Humanities Wiley College, Texas, 5/6/84
- Doctor of Humane Letters Sojourner-Douglas College, Maryland, 7/6/86
- Doctor of Laws Antioch University, Ohio, 1/15/94
- Doctor of Laws Westminster College, Pennsylvania, 2/26/92
- Doctor of Humane Letters Lake Forest College, Illinois, 5/12/80
- Doctor of Humane Letters Florida Agricultural & Mechanical University, 2/20/97
- Doctor of Humane Letters Mary Washington College, Virginia, 5/17/97
Governor James S. Gilmore named January 17-23, 1999 as JAMES FARMER WEEK in the COMMONWEALTH OF VIRGINIA.
Dr. Farmer received the Strong Men and Women: Excellence in Leadership award by Virginia Power on January 26, 1999.
October 15, 1998 -Dr. Farmer received Lifetime Achievement Award, from N.Y. ACLU.
May 17, 1998 – Received “Beyond the Call of Duty Award” from Zeta Lambda Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc.