The late Dr. Cornelius Golightly was one of the 20th Century’s most prominent public intellectuals who also amassed a series of “firsts” over the course of his life. Dr. Golightly was born on May 23, 1917.
Cornelius Lacy Golightly was born in Waterford, Mississippi. He entered Alabama’s Talladega College at 17 and became something of an academic superstar early on. He was one of a handful of Black students in 1938 who participated in the New Honor Society’s “Intellectual Olympics” and was the object of glowing praise.
After Talladega, Golightly entered the University of Michigan to earn both his Master’s and Ph. D in Philosophy and promptly went into academics, teaching at Howard University briefly before he moved on to Olivet College in Michigan. He became that school’s first Black philosopher to join the faculty.
Adding to his achievements, Golightly, who became involved in civil rights, was the first Black person to win a city-wide election to the Milwaukee School Board in 1961. In 1969, he became the first Black philosophy professor at Wayne State University and in 1973, Golightly became the first Black president of the Detroit Board of Education.
It was during the height of his tenure with the Detroit board that Golightly got involved in the issues of school integration and busing, causes dear to him. However, Golightly suffered a brain hemorrhage and he died in 1976 at the age of 58.
Reportedly, the family donated his body for study to the University of Michigan.
In 1982, Detroit Public Schools opened the Golightly Career and Technical in his honor.
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