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A Moment in Florida A&M History

Updated: Dec 2, 2021

With the encouragement of his father, Black Abolitionist Jonathan C. Gibbs, Thomas VR Gibbs introduced legislation to create the State Normal College for Colored Students in 1885, one year after being elected to the Florida Legislature. Thomas DeSaille Tucker, who became the school’s first President, co- founded the institution with Gibbs.

Attorney Monica Harris

The date also reflects the new Florida Constitution of 1885, which prohibited racial integration in schools. The college was located in Tallahassee because Leon County and adjacent counties led the state in African-American population, reflecting Tallahassee’s former status as the center of Florida’s slave trade.

The site of the university is the 375-acre slave plantation of Florida governor William Pope Duval, whose mansion, today is the site of the Carnegie Library, burned in 1905. The plantation had an abundance of rattlesnakes, thus the school’s mascot (the Rattlers).

On October 3, 1887, the State Normal College for Colored Students began classes and became a land-grant College four years later. The name was then changed to State Normal and Industrial College for Colored Students.

In 1909, the name was once again changed to Florida Agricultural and Mechanical College for Negroes (FAMC) and in 1953, the name was changed to Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University. Florida A&M is the only publicly funded historically black College or university in the state of Florida.

I also thought it fitting to share a bit of the Florida Classic game history The first matchup between Florida A&M University and Bethune-Cookman University took place in Tallahassee in 1925. Through 75 meetings thus far, the Rattlers hold a 50-24-1 series lead, thanks in large part to FAMU’s early success — including a run of 25 wins in 26 games between 1930 and 1972, the final game in that stretch serving as the final meeting at Welch Memorial Stadium in Daytona Beach.

By that time, the event had outgrown the teams’ respective home stadiums. During the early- and mid-1970s, organizers held the game at multiple venues throughout the state, including Doak Campbell Stadium, Daytona International Speedway and Camping World Stadium — then known as the Florida Citrus Bowl, coming on the heels of a major expansion, in 1976 — in search of the right host.

Eventually, the schools agreed on a permanent location, and in 1978 the “Florida Classic” was officially born, with Florida A&M and head coach Rudy Hubbard (a former Woody Hayes assistant) helping his team turn a 17-0 halftime deficit into a 27-17 win in the premiere game, a victory that ultimately proved critical during the Rattlers’ run to the inaugural NCAA Division 1-AA title.

However, it wasn’t until the game returned to Orlando for good in 1997 that the rivalry truly found its perfect fit — as evidenced by the 56,351 fans in attendance for Orlando’s first “Classic,” more than 25,000 more than the previous year in Tampa.

This year there were 54,198 fans in attendance. FAMU won with a final score of FAMU 46 BCU 21.

Rattlers will Strike strike strike and strike again!!!

Attorney Monica Harris, Rattler

IMAGES FROM THE Florida Classic GAME 2021

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