Rhodes Hosts Special MLK 50 Alumni Panel

Coby Smith, Carol DeForest, Mike Cody, Calvin Taylor, and Jocelyn Wurzburg speak about their personal experiences at Rhodes before and after the death of Dr. King.

As part of the larger MLK50 commemorations happening throughout the city, Rhodes College planned a number of special events to educate our students, alumni, and Memphis community members about the Civil Rights Movement and the legacy of Dr. King. 

A special panel featuring Rhodes alumni took place on Tuesday, March 27, in McNeill Concert Hall. Rhodes Remembers MLK50 focused on the personal perspectives of our alumni on the significant incidents leading up to and immediately following Dr. King’s death.  Panelists included:

Mike Cody '58 - has been an activist since college, when he organized the Intercity College Student Council to bring Memphis-area college students of all races together to fight segregation. Cody was a member of Dr. King's legal team at the time of the assassination. He went on to become the Attorney General for the State of Tennessee and U.S. Attorney for West Tennessee. He is in the Rhodes Athletic Hall of Fame and the annual Mike Cody 4 Mile Classic raises funds for the Rhodes Track & Field and Cross Country programs.

Jocelyn Wurzburg '62 - After Dr. King's death, Wurzburg founded the Memphis Chapter of the Panel of American Women-- a small, integrated group of local women who came together to fight intolerance in Memphis. In 1969, she led a women’s march on City Hall demanding the city and sanitation workers avert a second strike which led to her appointment to the Tennessee Human Rights Commission in 1972. Wurzburg obtained her law degree and became the first professional mediator in Memphis. The Tennessee Human Rights Commission has named an annual Civil Rights award in her honor. 

Coby Smith '68 - was one of the first black students admitted to Southwestern at Memphis (Rhodes.) In 1967, he co-founded the Black Organizing Project, which then became The Invaders, a grassroots civil rights activist group that began organizing the youth of Memphis to combat police brutality, poverty, and racial injustice. Smith met with Dr. King in his Lorraine Motel room prior to the assassination to strategize on how to best support the striking sanitation workers. The Invaders story is now a documentary that was recently screened on campus. Smith continues to be politically active, and recently ran for the District 7 City Council seat.

Carol DeForest '71 - As a freshman at Southwestern at Memphis, DeForest was inspired to march with the Sanitation Workers during the spring of 1968. She was present with them and with Dr. King, until his last speech the night before he was assassinated.  DeForest is a well-known Memphis artist who has created public art projects for the City of Memphis, UrbanArt Commission, and LeBonheur Children's Hospital among others. She is the former director of admission for the Memphis College of Art. This year, the 30-plus surviving Sanitation Workers will be honored with the Humanitarian Award, each stature created by DeForest.  

Calvin Taylor - was, along with Coby Smith, a member of The Invaders.  


MLK50 Alumni Panel 03/27/18