One of the most significant US Supreme Court decisions of the 20th century was the decree in Gomillion vs. Lightfoot in 1960. At the vanguard of this decree was South Carolina native Charles G. Gomillion, PhD. The decision outlawed gerrymandering as a mechanism for altering boundaries in order to minimize voting strength, thus, disfranchising many people. The case in point was Tuskegee, Alabama, where African-Americans were systematically stripped of voting power. Gomillion resolved to fight this unfair practice and he won!
Charles G. Gomillion, PhD, a native of Johnston (Edgefield County), South Carolina overcame many obstacles. He observed that he “had a total of 26 months of elementary school education.” His early schooling consisted of three months per year. He worked and persevered, eventually completing high school education at the academy at Paine College. His first jobs as a hotel cook and local farm hand earned him $4 and $7 per week, respectively. Working his way through school and saving as much as he could, he graduated BA cum laude, from Paine College when he was 28 years old. He subsequently earned his Ph.D. form the Ohio State University.
From 1928-1971, Dr. Gomillion worked at the world famous Tuskegee Institute in Alabama. He served as professor of Sociology, chairman of the Division of Social Sciences, Dean of Students and Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. A world renowned scholar, his research and writings have sparked discussions in academic and lay environments. Among his numerous writings are: 1. “Citizenship! A Challenge to Scholarship or the Challenging South:” 2. “The Influence of the Negro on the Culture of the South;” and 3. “The Challenging Civic Role of the Private Citizen in the Contemporary South.”
As a youngster, Dr. Gomillion’s parents admonished him never to disgrace himself and never to ignore his responsibilities. They instilled in him that everyone may not like him, but live so that people must respect him. This legacy was passed to others. He has always been a good listener and a thorough researcher. His sociological theories and advice on race relations have been utilized nationwide.
Dr. Gomillion’s indelible imprint on political, civic and educational entities will long be remembered. He has been an active member of many organizations, including the NAACP, the Alabama Council, the Southern Regional Council and the Southern Council Educational Fund.
Among his honors are: the first Charles S. Johnson Race Relations Award, the Lyndon B. Johnson Political Freedom Award, the Sociological Practice Association Distinguished Career Award and the national Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Man of the Year Award. This outstanding scholar, public servant and civil rights advocate has honorary degrees form Howard University, Ohio State University, Tuskegee Institute and Paine College.