T. Willard Fair — a man of substance and results
Miami Times staff report | 10/10/2013, 9 a.m.
The Urban League of Greater Miami [ULGM] is known as the “education affiliate” and under the leadership of its relentless leader, Talmadge “T” Willard Fair, this comes as no surprise. Opinions shaped by Fair aren’t “off the cuff” concepts shaped without reason — they are the result of a 50-year commitment to ensuring underserved minority children have access to an equal education.
“I don’t care about the vehicle, I care about the result,” Fair said. “And I’ve found the result is much better when parents are allowed to make choices.”
Recalling the day when he first interviewed with the Urban League, he says his first question was “What do y’all do?” The interviewer replied, “We fight on behalf of colored people to get equal opportunity. To that Fair replied: “I’ve been doing that all my life and for the past seven years I’ve been demonstrating all over North and South Carolina, Georgia and parts of Mississippi. It seems like a natural fit for me.”
In September 1963, immediately following MLK’s March on Washington, Fair arrived in Miami to work with the ULGM. The following month, his predecessor resigned and Fair took over as the position of President/CEO — a position he has proudly held for the past 50 years.
“I was 24 years old,” he said. “I was angry and became very aggressive in doing things in the community. The first thing I decided is that someone needed to be mad. So I became the guy that was mad.”
He credits his early political savvy to the well-known leaders he was around in Atlanta: John Lewis, Stokely Carmichael, H. Rap Brown, Jose Williams and Lonnie X.
In the ensuing decades Fair placed people in jobs, fought crime, created housing and registered thousands of voters with a campaign called “Vote, Baby, Vote.” During the last two decades he has turned his attention to fighting for equal rights through educational advancement. Today he continues to implement a series of programs that work to close the achievement gap between Black children in Liberty City and the rest of the state. Miami’s movers and shakers may not always agree with him, but they rarely do anything without him. To commemorate Fair’s 50th anniversary, a gala will be held on Saturday, Oct. 12 from 7 to 11 p.m. at the Fontainebleau Miami Beach.