African American History

Learn about prominent individuals including Hannah Richards, Professor W.E. Nash, Professor E. Harper Johnson, and Burkett Witt. Professor Nash and Professor Johnson served as the only two principals for J.L. Cook High School, a local black-only high school that closed in 1966. The school was named after Reverend Jacob Lincoln Cook who founded First United Presbyterian Church in Athens.
Burkett Witt, who attended J.L. Cook High School, was elected mayor of Athens in 1983. While it is widely believed Witt was the first Black mayor of the city, that title belongs to William Henry Richards, grandson of former slave Hannah Richards. According to historical records, Richards served as mayor pro tem of Athens in 1889.