Coming to Terms With the Past: Emory, Garaufis and FDNY


“Caucasian, Jew, or Other”

Bishop John Emory

Atlanta’s Emory University, one of the top schools in America, dates from the 1800’s and is named after John Emory (1789-1835), an early bishop in the Methodist Episcopal Church.

Emory, both the man and the school, have strong New York connections.  John Emory played an important role in the founding of New York University (NYU)  and Emory University was saved after the American Civil War by a $100,000 grant from Brooklyn businessman George Senney.

Emory’s religious association also contains an element of virulent anti-semitism.  From about 1948 through 1961, under Dean John Buhler, the school engaged in a campaign of widespread sustained discrimination against Jewish students.  Well over half of these students were failed outright or forced to repeat classes simply because of their heritage and religion.

Though Emory now has a student population that is about 20% Jewish, they have taken the step of confronting their largely unacknowledged past.  Gary Hauk, Emory’s vice-president, is quoted in the New York Times:

“We need to be fearless in confronting our past as individuals and an institution.  There are often things we regret about our past, but there is the possibility of making amends and of building on the acknowledgment of those things. Part of our vision of Emory is being ethically engaged, and that means wrestling about what it means to have these warts.”

Judge Garaufis

The concept of acknowledgment and amends also came to light this week as the federal judge overseeing the FDNY case, Nicholas G. Garaufis, was profiled in the Times. Termed a “liberal crusader” and an “Emperor”,  it turns out that the judge has been on a journey of his own.  Though he is currently vilified as the man effectively forcing the integration of FDNY, he was once a staunch advocate of the status quo where New York schools were concerned.  As a Queen’s politician he fought federal integration efforts in his majority white district.

Somewhere along the way, Garaufis moved from being a partisan politician representing his (mostly) white constituents to a man who saw the city, and its citizens as a whole, all of whom are worthy of a measure of justice.  We all know that the converted can be especially zealous and Judge Garaufis has been relentless.  The NYT reports that Garaufis at one point queried a senior black judge, Sterling Johnson, Jr., effectively asking him what it had been like to be a minority officer in NYPD in the early days.

Judge Johnson

Sterling Johnson, Jr., Marine, NYPD officer and senior judge had become a mentor for Garaufis, according to the Times.  Anyone who has had the good fortune to have a mentor knows the powerful role they can play in making sense of life.  Of course, Johnson could not be a mentor unless he was there in the first place.  Judge Johnson was appointed to the bench by President George H. W. Bush in 1991.

The Johnson-Garaufis relationship illustrates the obvious fact that we cannot know others or share their wisdom and insight when they are not around.  Sometimes in life it takes an open mind and courage to create change that can have a profound result.  President Bush’s nomination of  Johnson placed him in a position where his story has become a catalyst for change.

FDNY cannot really begin their journey of change until they acknowledge their history and accept help from a man whose past they can surely profit from.


(Sources:  NYT, Wiki, Emory)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *