Samuel L. Myers, Sr., is an American economist, former university president, education adviser and civil rights advocate. One of Myers’ most significant contributions to society occurred during his 18-year tenure as the president of the National Association for Equal Opportunity (NAFEO), during which he fought to sustain the establishment of Historically Black Colleges by providing them access to a billion dollars of federal aid.
Myers was born in Baltimore, Maryland, in April 1919 to David and Edith Myers, both Jamaican immigrants. Myers attended Frederick Douglass High School, which was segregated at the time. After graduating in 1936, he attended Morgan State College and initially planned to major in chemistry. However, after taking a semester off to work and travel, he was impacted by the numerous inequalities taking place across the country and decided to pursue a career in the social sciences. After graduating from Morgan State College, he continued his education and earned a master’s degree in economics.
Before he could complete his studies, Myers was drafted into the Army and stationed at Camp Lee, Alabama. He faced difficult times with racism and discrimination while being in the army. Along with other black soldiers, he often had to clean the barracks of white soldiers.
After the war, Myers continued his education at Harvard and pursued a doctorate degree in economics. He became one of the first African-Americans to receive a Ph.D. in economics from Harvard.
Myers held several jobs throughout his career, including serving as President of Bowie State University in 1967. After retiring from the university, he was named the president of the National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education. The organization, which founded in 1969 in Washington D.C., was created with the objective of representing Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) across the nation. Myers spent the next 18 years serving as the president, which is the longest-serving term in the organization’s history.
While in office, Myers became NAFEO’s second leader, working instrumentally to stabilize its finances and counseling current leaders of represented black colleges.