Donald Hollowell (1917-2004)
Donald Lee Hollowell was born on December 19, 1917, in Wichita, Kansas, to Ocenia Bernice and Harrison Hannibal Hollowell. During Hollowell's youth his family moved regularly, usually in search of employment for his father, who worked primarily as a custodian but took odd jobs to better provide for his wife and four children.
In the army Hollowell encountered institutionalized and pervasive racism for the first time, an experience he later credited with inspiring his civil rights activism. Despite suffering the indignities of Jim Crow, he performed admirably as an enlisted man, completing his high school education through correspondence classes, and rising to the rank of Private First Class Specialist Five by 1938, when he withdrew from regular service to continue his education.
In 1938 Hollowell enrolled at Lane College, an all-black school in Jackson, Tennessee, where he excelled in the classroom and on the athletic field as a three-sport athlete. During his freshman year he joined the Colored Methodist Episcopal Church (later Christian Methodist Episcopal Church), whose headquarters were located in Jackson. He also served as the editor of the student newspaper and was elected president of his freshman class, a distinction he retained for the next two years.
After the war's conclusion, Hollowell returned to Lane College, graduating magna cum laude in 1947. He enrolled in law school at Loyola University in Chicago, Illinois, earning a law degree in 1951. The following year he moved to Atlanta, where he established a law practice and rejoined his wife, who was enrolled in graduate school at Atlanta University (later Clark Atlanta University). Hollowell's wife went on to become a professor at Morris Brown College.
"Mr. Civil Rights"
Hollowell first attracted statewide attention in 1956 as lead counsel in a lawsuit filed by Horace T. Ward, a black applicant denied admission to the UGA Law School. Although Ward's case was ultimately dismissed, Hollowell earned a decisive legal victory against state-sanctioned segregation in higher education in 1959, when he successfully represented three applicants denied admission to the Georgia State College of Business Administration (later Georgia State University). In that case a federal district court judge ruled the school's admission policies to be unconstitutional, paving the way for a more contentious legal showdown.
In 1960 Hollowell provided counsel to college students waging sit-ins at Atlanta's lunch counters, and he secured the release of Martin Luther King Jr. from the Reidsville prison, where he was held on charges stemming from his participation in the student demonstrations. Hollowell represented King again two years later, when he and other activists were arrested as a result of their participation in the Albany Movement.
In 1966 President Johnson appointed Hollowell as director of the southeastern regional Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, based in Atlanta, a position he held for the next nineteen years. From 1971 to 1986, as chairman of the board, he led the Voter Education Project in Georgia, helping to increase the number of registered African American voters in the country from 3 million to 5.5 million.
In 2000 the Donald L. Hollowell Foundation was established to assist with the educational and social needs of children and seniors in Georgia. The foundation also sponsors the annual Donald L. Hollowell Golf Tournament.
Hollowell died in Atlanta of heart failure on December 27, 2004.
A documentary, Donald L. Hollowell: Foot Soldier for Equal Justice, produced by the Foot Soldier Project at UGA, premiered in April 2010. That same month, UGA's School of Social Work announced the full endowment of the Donald L. Hollowell Professorship of Social Justice and Civil Rights Studies.
Louise Hollowell and Martin C. Lehfeldt, The Sacred Call: A Tribute to Donald Hollowell, Civil Rights Champion (Winter Park, Fla.: Four-G, 1997).
Robert A. Pratt, We Shall Not Be Moved: The Desegregation of the University of Georgia (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2002).
Edward A. Hatfield, New Georgia Encyclopedia
A project of the Georgia Humanities Council, in partnership with the University of Georgia Press, the University System of Georgia/GALILEO, and the Office of the Governor.