Former FBI Director James Comey gets a chair at Howard University

By Frederick H. Lowe

James Comey, who was appointed FBI director by President Barack Obama and fired by President Donald Trump, has been named Howard University’s Opening Convocation keynote speaker.

James Comey

Comey also has been named the 2017-2018 Gwendolyn S. and Colbert I. King Endowed Chair in Public Policy. In this capacity, Comey will lead and conduct five lectures at Howard, a private research university founded in 1867 for African-American students.  The lectures will feature speakers who will address several agreed upon topics.

He will donate his entire King Chair salary of $100,000 to a Howard University scholarship fund that supports students raised in foster homes.

“I am pleased to welcome Mr. Comey to Howard,” said Wayne A. I. Frederick, Howard’s president.  “His experience and understanding of the challenges we continue to face today will go a long way in sparking rich discussion and advancing meaningful debates across campus.”

Comey said, “I am honored to hold the King Chair this year. Howard has a longstanding history of being a vibrant academic community and the perfect place to have rich dialogue on many of the most pressing issues we face today. I look forward to contributing to this remarkable institution and engaging students and faculty alike.”

President Obama appointed Comey FBI director, the seventh in the nation’s history, on September 4, 2013.  Trump fired him May 9th.

As director, Comey did something unprecedented. He ordered his special agents to visit Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Memorial in Washington, D.C. for a discussion about the government’s unchecked power.

Edgar Hoover, the FBI’s first director, labeled Dr. King a communist because of his civil rights work. U.S. Attorney General Robert Kennedy signed a 1963 memo, allowing the FBI to monitor King, open his mail, tap his phones and try to destroy his marriage. The surveillance was open-ended and conducted without a court order.

As Opening Convocation Speaker, Comey will kick off the school year on September 22 by formally welcoming the class of 2021. He also will recognize Howard for its accomplishments. Students from 108 countries will be enrolling. The first time Comey spoke at Howard was in February.

The Gwendolyn S. and Colbert I. King Endowed Chair in Public Policy was established in 2008 with a $1 million donation.

Gwendolyn S. King was Commissioner of the Social Security Administration from 1989 to 1992. She also was a deputy assistant to President Ronald Reagan.

Colbert I. King is a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for the Washington Post. He won the Pulitzer in 2003 for commentary. King is deputy editor of the Post’s editorial page.  He and his wife graduated from Howard.

“Colby and I are delighted that a highly distinguished public official such as Jim Comey will become the holder of the Gwendolyn S. and Colbert I. King Endowed Chair for the coming year,” said Gwen King.


A first for Florida: the state executes a white man for murdering a black man

By Frederick H. Lowe

Since 1976, Florida has executed 92 men and one woman, but Thursday’s execution of its 93rd man was unprecedented because it was the first time the state executed a white man for murdering a black man.

Mark Asay

Mark James Asay, a 53-year old white supremacist, died of a lethal injection for the May 17, 1987 murder of 34-year-old Robert Lee Booker, following a brief argument.

Asay shot Booker after pointing a finger in his face. Booker ordered Asay not to.

Asay said, “Fuck you, nigger” before pulling a pistol from his back pocket and shooting Booker in the abdomen, according to court records.

Robbie, James’ brother, asked him why he shot Booker. “Because you got to show a nigger who is boss,” James snapped. Booker’s body was found under the edge of a nearby house.

Asay spent nearly 30 years on Death Row before he was executed for murdering Booker and Robert McDowell, a white/Hispanic man who dressed as a woman. Asay had sex with the “woman.” He became enraged when he realized she was a man.

Florida Executions in Black and White

Prior to Asay’s execution, 57 white prisoners were executed for killing at least one white or Hispanic person in the modern era, the Death Penalty Information Center reported.

But 28 African-American death row prisoners have been executed for killing a white or a Hispanic person, with more than 70 percent condemned for killing at least one white person, said the Death Penalty Information Center

Florida reinstated the death penalty in 1976.

Amnesty International published earlier this month before Asay’s execution a report titled “USA:  Death in Florida.”

The execution chamber

Amnesty International reported that Asay’s pending execution and Florida Governor Rick Scott’s decision to remove Aramis Ayala, the Orlando District Attorney, from 27 homicide prosecutions provides a moment to reflect on Florida’s history of racial bias concerning capital punishment.

The state was a leader in lynching in the South and slow to eradicate this phenomenon in the 20th century, Amnesty International reported.

Between 1877 and 1950, there were 311 lynchings in Florida. Alabama, Georgia, Texas, Mississippi and Louisiana had more, reports the Equal Justice Initiative, which is building a national memorial to victims of lynching.

Gov. Scott took the homicide cases away from Ayala and gave them to another prosecutor because she doesn’t believe in the death penalty.

Ayala is the first African-American district attorney in Florida’s history.


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