Cornelius L. Golightly was the first black president of the Detroit Board of Education. Golightly was a teacher, civil rights activist, educator, and public intellectual.
Golightly was born on March 23, 1917, in Waterford, Mississippi. He was one of ten children to Rev. Richmond Mack Golightly and Margaret Fullilove Golightly. At the age of 17, Golightly enrolled at Talladega College in Alabama. He did well academically as well as in athletics. In 1938 he participated in the “Intellectual Olympics,” a competition held in New York City by the New History Society. He was one of only five black students from across the US to earn honors in the competition.
After graduating from Talladega in 1938 Golightly went to the University of Michigan to study philosophy. He earned a Master’s degree in 1939 and a Ph.D. in 1941. Golightly took a position as an instructor of philosophy and social science at Howard University for the academic year 1942-1943. He was also the president of the Barnett Aden Gallery in Washington, DC during the same time.
In 1943, Golightly became a Compliance Analyst with the Fair Employment Practices Committee (FEPC). He later served as Associate Dean and Professor of Philosophy at Wayne State University in Detroit. He was the first African American to teach in the philosophy department at Wayne State.