Herman Hodge Long was a college administrator and author of several studies pertaining to race relations. He served as president of his alma mater, Alabama’s Talladega College from May 2, 1912 to August 8, 1976. Long also served as president of the United Negro College Fund from 1970 to 1975. He adopted the tagline “A mind is a terrible thing to waste,” one of the most famous and apropos mottos created for any institution.
Long was born in Birmingham, Alabama on May 2, 1912. He moved with his family to the South Side of Chicago while still in his youth, there he grew up in poverty. He found work at numerous jobs, studying at night, after the stock market crashed in 1929, he was more determined to achieve the highest education level for himself. n September 1931 he returned to Alabama to attend Talladega College, the state’s oldest, private, historically black liberal arts college, founded in 1867 on the outskirts of Talladega County’s seat, the city of Talladega. During the four years spent there as a student, he was considered a top debater and, at 6′ 3,” became a star player and, eventually, captain of the basketball team.
Long’s journey toward becoming a leading researcher in sociology began when he went to Fisk University, which was considered the leading center for training African Americans in the field of sociological research. There, he worked with Dr. Charles S. Johnson, the most acclaimed African American sociologist in the United States. Long went on to become the head of the university’s Race Relations Institute and produced several pieces that were published nationally and referenced in many sociological texts.
Beginning in 1964, Talladega College’s Board of Trustees searched for a successor to the institution’s first African-American president, Arthur Gray, who served from 1952 to 1962. The trustees offered the position to its distinguished alumnus, Herman Long. His 1965 inauguration at the College’s DeForest Chapel took place thirty years after his own graduation ceremony there. As a highly regarded figure in the African-American community, he continued to provide leadership during the turbulent 1960s and, in 1970, while continuing to serve in his Talladega post, he was chosen as the next president of the United Negro College Fund (UNCF), the organization, then in its 26th year (founded in 1944), which had the goal of raising funds for the 39 private historically black colleges and universities. It was during his tenure, in 1972, that the slogan, “A Mind Is a Terrible Thing to Waste,” became the UNCF’s motto. Herman H. Long was 64 when he died of cancer at Talladega’s Citizens Hospital.