Charlayne Hunter and Hamilton Holmes were the first African American students to enroll at the University of Georgia in 1961. But Mary Frances Early was the first African American to earn a degree from the University of Georgia. She was awarded a master’s degree in music education in August 1962. Early will be honored on October 10 with the unveiling of her portrait in the Gordon Jones Gallery on campus. The portrait is the work of by Richard Wilson.
While at the university, Early reported that she had lemons thrown at her in the cafeteria and a racial slur painted on her car. But she persisted and completed her studies.
Early earned her bachelor’s degree in music education from Clark Atlanta University in 1957 and attended the University of Michigan before transferring to the University of Georgia.
Early served as a teacher and administrator in Georgia public schools for 37 years. She was the director of music for Atlanta Public Schools and became the first African American president of the Georgia Music Educators Association in 1981. Later, she taught at Morehouse College and was chair of the music department at her undergraduate alma mater, Clark Atlanta University.