Ninth President of Alabama State University laid to rest


Kenneth A. Dean, General Manager

Sixty-five years ago, he was a physical education teacher and assistant coach who took out the time before each of his classes began to give life lessons to his pupils and encourage them to be honest, live with integrity and have a purpose in life.

On a warm, sunny Monday, under blue skies punctuated with a few clouds, which happened to be Veterans Day, Nov. 11, 2019, this man, Clifford Cornell Baker, ninth president of Alabama State University was laid to rest.

Baker, who died at the age of 89, received a number of accolades from friends, family and others who worked with him or under his supervision.

He was a 1948 graduate of George Washington Carver High School in Gadsden, Alabama. He earned both a bachelor of science and master of education degree from Alabama State University, and in 1973 he earned his Doctor of Education from Auburn University.

Speakers, including his granddaughter, Gina M. Presley, highlighted his strong family ties, his presence of displine, his words of encouragement for his family, his strength, civility, humility and his love for his alma mater, Alabama State University. Her commentary regarding her grandfather drew a number of chuckles as many in the audience who knew Baker could relate to her descriptions.

Former Chairman of the Alabama State University Board of Trustees Joe Louis Reed began his comments by saying this is the first time he actually knew what the other “C” in C.C. Baker stood for.

He shared with the audience, how Baker was selected as the ninth president of Alabama State University.

“When I called the majority of Trustees to give his name, they said, “Say no more, he is our man.” Reed talked about his seriousness when it came to handling business, giving an example of a young man who walked up to him one day regarding a position at the university that he desired and Baker’s response was, “Where is the vacancy?” Reed said, “He was a man that we should have called upon much earlier and one that we allowed to leave much too soon.” Reed also talked about his attributes such as integrity and the integrity of the institution and what that meant to him as well as Baker’s honesty. Reed also complimented former First Lady Alma Jean Baker on being a great first lady.

Current President of Alabama State University Quinton T. Ross, Jr., Ed.D, said “If there had not been a C.C. Baker, there probably would not have been President Quinton T. Ross. Ross talked about the impact that Baker had on his life and how his words of wisdom were pivotal in his life. Ross also talked about the order of the program and instead of a eulogy, his life would be divided into tributes titled “The Book of the Life and Times of C.C. Baker.”

Sammy Glover, who sits as a city councilman, for the town of Andalusia, Alabama said that Baker had a profound impact on students and education in the town of Andalusia. His impact was so significant that after serving as the principal of Covington County Training School in Andalusia, and the only principal of Carter G. Woodson High School, 23 years later a street (Eighth Avenue) was renamed after him that extends past the former Woodson High School where he served.

Ann Starks, who worked with Baker at the Alabama State Department of Education noted that Baker was the first African American and only one to hold a position of that rank in the State of Alabama. “He was a perfect gentleman, a serious administrator and he was always concerned about others, asking “How are you doing to day?” or “How are you doing with attaining your professionals goals?” Stark said that it was a privilege to work with Baker and he set a great example for administrators who would follow him. A Department of Education Conference room located in the Gordon Persons Building was named in Dr. Baker’s honor in December 1990.

The Montgomery Alumni Chapter Polemarc of Kappa Alpha Psi bestowed Alma Jean Baker with a pin as a Kappa Sweetheart for her late husband and member of the fraternity

Alabama State University gave his widow, Alma Jean Baker, a resolution as well as his church of membership, Hall Street Baptist Church. Pastor Leonard Cammack said he was a faithful deacon for decades Dorothy Riggins-Allen, Ed.D accompanied by Joel Jones, Ph.D. entertained the audience with two musical selections, “Wind Beneath My Wings” and “Walk Around Heaven.”