A portrait honoring the memory of former Troy University Trustee Lamar P. Higgins was unveiled on Thursday in the conference room bearing his name at the Rosa Parks Museum on Troy University’s Montgomery Campus.
The portrait was painted and gifted to the University by TROY alumnus Willie Austin, II, and was appropriately unveiled on Rosa Parks Day in Alabama, an observance that was established in large part due to Higgins’ efforts in lobbying the Alabama Legislature. The 2018 bill establishing Dec. 1 as Rosa Parks Day in the state, received the Legislature’s unanimous support.
Higgins, who passed away in 2021, was first appointed to the University’s Board of Trustees in 1996, making him the board’s first African American member. During his tenure on the board, Higgins was instrumental in the planning and construction of the Rosa Parks Library and Museum on the University’s Montgomery Campus and for establishing the Leadership Conference Celebrating African American History Month, a partnership between the University and the city of Troy. In 2021, the conference was renamed in memory of the late Congressman and TROY native John R. Lewis.
In addition, Higgins was responsible for initiating the University’s Unity Prayer Breakfast in 2020. During the second annual event, held in 2021, the newly renovated ballroom in the Trojan Center on the Troy Campus was named as the Lamar P. Higgins Ballroom.
A 1981 TROY graduate, Higgins became the first African-American to be elected as Student Government Association vice president and president. He held the distinction of being the first person to be elected to second term as SGA President, the second time without opposition. He also was a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc.
“He was one of those transformational change agents that you periodically have the opportunity to get to know,” Chancellor Dr. Jack Hawkins, Jr. said of Higgins. “He was a true Trojan. He was never content with the status quo. It was Mrs. Rosa Parks who said, ‘Each person must live their life as a role model to others.’ As you ponder the depths of your memory, I challenge you to remember a better role model and a more transformational figure and a better example of the human spirit than Lamar Higgins.”
Gibson Vance, President Pro-Tem of the TROY Board of Trustees, remembered Higgins as the board’s ‘heart and soul.’
“At TROY, we have a motto that is the cornerstone of everything we do. It is ‘Educate the mind the think, the heart to feel and the body to act.’ I can’t hear that motto without thinking of Lamar Higgins,” Vance said. “The fact is, Lamar Higgins for many, many years was the heart and soul of the Board of Trustees, if not the University at large. No one that I’ve ever met loved Troy University more than Lamar Higgins. This portrait of Lamar is going to be a beautiful reminder of his legacy, but the beauty is that we don’t need this as a reminder, because Lamar’s legacy lives in our hearts.”
Professionally, Higgins enjoyed a long career in public and government service and served as a partner at Fine Geddie & Associates, LLC., a governmental affairs firm in Montgomery.
“Lamar was with us 26 years and he was one of my closest friends for 40 years,” said Bob Geddie, a founding partner of the firm. “We miss him every day that we come into the office. He was a treasure.”
Phyllis Jackson, Higgins’ sister, said family and faith played a huge role in his life. Higgins was a member of Saint Paul AME Church, which was Mrs. Parks’ home church during her time in Montgomery.
“Lamar’s goal in life was to make a difference in the lives of men and women, especially the students of Troy University,” Jackson said. “Lamar loved Troy University. He loved his family, his church family and, most of all, he loved God. Today has been an exceptional day and we know that Lamar his here with us. He would say, ‘don’t make it about me; it’s about us and what we can do together.’ On behalf of the Higgins family, we say thank you.”
Ray White, Vice Chancellor of Troy University’s Montgomery Campus, said the portrait of Mr. Higgins was the second painting to be donated by Austin, a 2017 TROY alumnus who graduated with a degree in computer science. Austin currently serves as a software engineer for the Naval Oceanographic Office at the John C. Stennis Space Center in Mississippi.
“In February 2021, he unveiled his first hand-painted portrait to his Alma Mater of Congressman John Lewis, which now hangs in the John Robert Lewis Hall on the Troy Campus,” White said. “After the dedication of the Congressman John Lewis portrait, Mr. Austin felt inspired to paint another portrait to honor another great Trojan who gave so much to the University — Trustee Lamar P. Higgins. While Mr. Austin could not attend today’s dedication in person, he expressed to me what a great honor it was to have his work that honors such a great leader as Mr. Higgins displayed by the University.”
In closing, White said Higgins’ impact will continue to live on through the lives he touched.
“Rosa Parks once said, ‘Memories of our lives, our works and our deeds will continue in others.’ That is how I feel about Mr. Higgins,” White said. “His life, his work and his deeds continue in others that he impacted and will continue to impact for many years to come.”