In his signature two-piece suit, Dr. Frank George Pogue Jr. sits in his office on the first floor of Long-Jones Hall, in possibly the largest office on the campus of Grambling State University and he asks himself, “How on earth did I get out of here?”
A question that he asks in a way that does not pertain to his education, or achievements or duty as a university president, but a question that he uses to reflect on his upbringing, path to be an educator and efforts to leave his hometown.
Born Nov. 3, 1938, in Cortelyou, Ala., about 45 miles from Montgomery, Pogue is the second youngest of six children, raised by a single mother after his father left home when he was 9.
“She did the best she could to take care of us. We were about the poorest people around, but we didn’t know because nobody told us,” said Dr. Pogue, reflecting on his childhood and the teaching of his mother who is still living and over 100 years old.
With over 50 years of higher education experience, he remembers being educated in legal segregation virtually throughout his life and walking miles to his all Black school.
“My community, I often thought it was a safety zone, because we had everything we needed, K through 12th grade. There was virtually nothing one could say has being integrated including churches, schools, grocery and drug stores,” added Pogue.
Living in a time where teachers, principals and other educators were role models, he says that he and many of his peers knew they had to go to college because they knew they would have to teach their same-race constituents.
However, Pogue became interested in Civil Rights during his undergraduate years at Alabama State and marched and practiced the teachings of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
“We were a part of that. We grew up in a Civil Rights era. We did not attribute what White people had to what we had, based on how smart they were,” said Dr. Pogue, whose voice now overpowers the drills that rip into the pavement outside his office window.
“We weren’t taught that we were inferior. If anything, I was superior, because of the hurdles I had to jump.”
Though never been physically hurt by Whites, he has seen lynch mobs pull fathers and brothers out of homes to be hanged and has witnessed cross-burnings on front yards. Being a product of White hate, Pogue says that he was struck by a White woman’s car and upon the arrival of law enforcement was drowned in social epithets and called n*****.
“You can’t have segregation without having people understand their role. You have to learn to be Black. Segregation was humiliating, fear producing and hostile,” said the eighth president of GSU.
Decades removed from the harsh realities of segregation, Dr. Pogue has served as a researcher, dean, department head, vice president, vice chancellor and president for eight other institutions including being named the first African American president of Edinboro University in Pennsylvania, a historically white institution.
His success, he says comes from with the help of his wife Dorothy Pogue of 50 years, who lovingly calls “Dot.”
“Everywhere I’ve been, we’ve been together. She is by far my biggest supporter and biggest critic. Anyone who has worked with us at any university will tell you it’s a partnership, and I respect her views,” said Dr. Pogue with a smile on his face.
The father of one daughter and grandfather of two boys, who he recently seen in Delaware during the Easter Holiday has retired three times and currently serves as a special consultant for the oldest firm in America, Academic Search, in which the organization seek out and evaluate potential university presidents.
Spending 37 years in predominantly white school system and classifying himself as a diverse president and is one of the main reasons why he accepted the presidency at Grambling State University, a position he applied for in 1992.
“Grambling has a meaning to me and I knew Grambling was in trouble and had to be saved,” said Pogue before mentioning that just 6 months within his interim term, the university took a budget cut of 14 million dollars. “Grambling has a meaning of excellence. It is an institution that has a clear mission and designed to serve students, regardless of color.”
Firm in the future success of GSU, Dr. Pogue says that the issues facing Grambling are external with governmental legislature and efforts to change the mission of Grambling, a change that he says will fight to change back to its original purpose.
“The only reason why I’m here is because I feel like I’m being helpful. I plan to be at Grambling as long as my health olds and I think I’m being helpful and making a difference,” said Dr. Pogue.
A graduate of Atlanta University in 1965 and Doctoral graduate from the University of Pittsburgh in sociology with an emphasis on strategy and race relations, Dr. Pogue is fortunate about the way his life has panned out and has plans to write a book based on his life as an educator and will continue he’s work as a consultant.
“I’ve been tremendously blessed to have achieved quite a bit given the odds,” concluded Dr. Pogue.