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Florida A&M University’s Marching 100 band has long been considered the cream of the crop of college marching bands in the country for decades. The Marching 100 owe it all to Dr. William “The Law” Foster, who was born 100 years ago on August 25, 1919.

The Kansas City, Kan. native was moved to his life’s path early on and by high school, he was a student director of his high school’s band. At 17, he also directed an all-city band in his hometown. While studying music education at the University of Kansas, Foster hoped to join the school’s marching band but was denied due to his race.

Foster went on to earn a master’s from Wayne State University and a doctorate from Teachers College at Columbia University. In 1946, Foster joined FAMU as its band director and for 52 years, “The Maestro” fine-tuned the band’s routines and showmanship to perfection. Other HBCU bands often imitated the Marching 100, setting the tone for homecoming halftime shows.

So popular was FAMU’s band that France named them as the lone American representative to perform in 1989 for Bastille Day and the Bicentennial of the French Revolution. To this day, the Marching 100, which actually has closer to 400 members, eclipsing Foster’s original goal, is still seen as the marching band gold standard.

Foster passed in 2010 at the age of 91.

PHOTO: Public Domain