Morgan’s College of Liberal Arts celebrates James Gilliam with Renaming Ceremony


Tramon Lucas

James H. Gilliam, a prominent lawyer, philanthropist and humanitarian in Baltimore, once roamed the halls of Morgan State University’s College of Liberal Arts as an English major. Now, 50 years later, Morgan named the school in his honor.

The unveiling ceremony took place in the lobby of Holmes Hall, and consisted of a portrait of Gilliam, who died in 2003, and a sign bearing the liberal arts college’s new name above the main elevator.

Gilliam had several milestones throughout his career. These included becoming the state of Delaware’s first black Cabinet secretary, working for the Beneficial Finance Corporation for two decades and founding the “Black Tie Affair,” a mentoring and networking event for young men. Gilliam also started an endowment at Morgan and a scholarship fund for African-American students at Columbia University, where he received a law degree in 1970.

Among those who attended the ceremony were old friends of Gilliam’s, including NFL Hall of Fame linebacker Willie Lanier, Sr., who played nine years in the league with the Kansas City Chiefs and was a member of the graduating class of 1967 with him.

“We were in the same classes together, and we had a chance to get to know one another, and what we both understood was that this university was going to allow us to compete anywhere, anytime,” Lanier explained. “I kept track of his [career] from a distance, and it was with great joy that whatever I saw him continuing to do, he continued to grow, and it was fascinating.”

The Dean of the College of Liberal Arts, Dr. M’bare N’gom, also attended the event.

“Mr. James H. Gilliam was a remarkable individual who remained committed to the well-being and academic success of students at Morgan State University,” he said. “This college will bear the Gilliam name with great pride and honor.”

Members of the Gilliam family attended as well, including Patrice Gilliam-Johnson, James’s younger sister who serves as the Secretary of Labor for the state of Delaware. Gilliam-Johnson credited Morgan, where she graduated as well, for molding and transforming her family, particularly her brother.

“He often talked about the Morgan experience; walking through Holmes Hall, pledging Kappa Alpha Psi [Fraternity] and all the things he would learn,” she said. “He’s the reason I came [to Morgan] behind him.”

Gilliam is the latest member of his family to have a building on Morgan’s campus named after him; Morgan named the largest auditorium in the Carl J. Murphy Fine Arts Center after his parents, James Sr. and Louise Hayley Gilliam.