An Important Story That Needs to Be Told

New Historical Marker Celebrates Armstrong State University History

Georgia Historical Society President W. Todd Groce; Regent Don Waters; Former Savannah mayor and alumnus Otis Johnson; Georgia Southern President Kyle Marrero in front of the Armstrong Historical Marker
Georgia Historical Society President W. Todd Groce; Regent Don Waters; Former Savannah mayor and alumnus Otis Johnson; Georgia Southern President Kyle Marrero

A new historical marker honors Armstrong State University’s contributions to the city of Savannah, its students and its legacy in Georgia Southern University’s history.

In December, Georgia Historical Society and Georgia Southern dedicated the marker, located on the Armstrong Campus in the quad behind Burnett Hall. The plaque commemorates Armstrong’s history from its beginning as a two-year college in 1935 through its consolidation with Georgia Southern in 2018.

“I want to congratulate Georgia Southern on receiving this marker about Armstrong and its history, which played such a crucial role in the development of our city during the 20th and into the 21st century,” said W. Todd Groce, Ph.D., president and CEO of the Georgia Historical Society. “It is an important story that needs to be told. As Armstrong now goes forward in its next chapter under its new name and its association with Georgia Southern University, this is an important part of continuing to understand who we are as a city, as a state, as a nation, as a university and as a university community.”

The marker joins more than 250 historic points of interest in Georgia Historical Society’s marker program, an important tool for furthering an understanding of Georgia history and promoting tourism.

Georgia Southern President Kyle Marrero, praising the dedicated community leaders, faculty, staff, alumni and students who make the Armstrong Campus the unique place that it is today, promised that Georgia Southern will continue to elevate all that makes the campus distinct while ensuring it continues to bolster the economic impact of the region and provide substantial opportunities for students.

“This is an important marker for us today as we enliven and bring forward our history, the legacy of Armstrong and what it is today as a part of Georgia Southern,” Marrero said, addressing a crowd gathered on the lawn. “We will enhance it together as two very distinctive campuses under one umbrella, Georgia Southern University. We will grow together to not only impact ourselves, but others.”

Former Savannah mayor and Armstrong alumnus Otis Johnson, Ph.D., recognized on the marker for his perseverance and dedication to education, was the first African American student to attend Armstrong College.

He spoke at the event and reflected that the time was right for him to attend Armstrong College the same year other students desegregated the public school system in Savannah. He acknowledged the staff and faculty who supported him along the way and changed the trajectory of his career, helping him make the best of his American dream.

“When you look at the fact that I was one, and now look at the number of African Americans, Hispanics and others on these two campuses now, I am very happy to be able to say that I was a part of changing the way things were,” Johnson said.

“I want to thank Armstrong for what they did in providing me that opportunity that changed my life,” he continued. “I want to also thank Armstrong for the way they have received me over the years. Armstrong, over the years, has affected me and treated me with dignity, and I am eternally grateful for that.”

The Georgia Historical Society erected the Armstrong State University historical marker with support from the Waters Foundation, Inc. and Georgia Southern University Foundation, Inc. — Jennifer S. Wise