Respected African-American Leader Steps Down From Fundraising Position to Protest Lack of Racial Diversity at the University of South Alabama

J. Gary Cooper, a retired Marine Corps general, bank president, and former ambassador to Jamaica, resigned his position as a fundraiser for the University of South Alabama in Mobile to protest the institution’s lack of effort to promote racial diversity. Cooper is a highly respected black leader in Mobile. He was the chairman of the Commonwealth National Bank and is a board member of the Alabama State Port Authority. In 2002 he became the first black member of the Country Club of Mobile.

In a letter to university president Gordon Moulton announcing his resignation, General Cooper wrote, “It is my firm belief that the university is not meeting its obligation to the African-American community.”

General Cooper said he has several major concerns. Among them are:

• Lack of tenured black faculty;
• No program to retain current black students;
• No black upper-level administrators;
• Little effort to incorporate minority businesses as university contractors; and
• No outreach programs to blacks in the community.

Blacks make up nearly 18 percent of the undergraduate students at the university. But only 4 percent of the faculty is black. There is one African American among 21 top-level administrators at the University of South Alabama.