SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV)—The Georgia Historical Society along with the Waters Foundation and Georgia Southern University Foundation dedicated a new Georgia Historical Marker commemorating the history of Armstrong State University in Savannah on Tuesday.
The marker highlights the history of Armstrong State University from its founding in 1935 as a two-year Junior college in downtown Savannah.
The school then moved to Savannah’s southside in 1966 and became a university. Then, in 2017, it merged with Georgia Southern to better serve the needs of students in southeast Georgia.
The plaque mentions former Mayor Otis Johnson, who was the first African American to attend Armstrong. He graduated in 1964 with an associate’s degree.
“It is quite an honor to be on that marker and to represent a major turning point in the history of what was then Armstrong,” Johnson said.
The president of Georgia Southern University spoke at the dedication as well as the president of the Georgia Historical Society about the importance of remembering the university’s roots.
“It is very important that we have institutions of higher education that are really quality and that offer a diverse array of offerings and that also embraces diversity,” Johnson said. “The future of the region will depend a lot on what this institution does to provide more opportunities for an array of students.”
The marker is placed near the quad fountain on the Armstrong Campus of Georgia Southern University behind Burnett Hall.
The marker reads:
Armstrong State University
Armstrong Junior College was founded in 1935 by Savannah Mayor Thomas Gamble as a two-year college. It held classes in the donated former home of businessman George Armstrong, adjacent to Forsyth Park. In 1959, through the leadership of President Foreman Hawes and alumnus Frank Cheatham, Armstrong became part of the University System of Georgia. To accommodate Armstrong’s growth, in 1962 the Mills B. Lane Foundation and Donald Livingston donated 250 acres on Savannah’s southside for a new campus that opened in 1966. In 1963 future Savannah mayor Otis Johnson became the first African American to attend Armstrong, graduating the next year with an associate’s degree as the College received four-year status from the Board of Regents. In 1996 the college attained university status.