Beloved Texas Southern University Debate Coach, Dr. Thomas F. Freeman, Passes Away at 100

He taught legendary figures such as Martin Luther King Jr.

We're sad to report that Texas lost one of its greatest educators and friend to many on Saturday, June 6th, when Dr. Thomas F. Freeman passed away at the age of 100 from natural causes.

Though "debate coach" doesn't accurately capture all that he did as the founder of the TSU Debate Team, the beloved faculty member Emeritus at Texas Southern University helped bring TSU debaters to international prominence, as well as influence many luminary figures. "Dr. Freeman had achieved a level of renown usually reserved for football coaches, partly because of his roster of stellar students," a New York Times piece by Katharine Q. Seelye celebrating his life stated. "One was an 18-year-old named Martin Luther King Jr. Dr. Freeman, who was a guest lecturer at Morehouse College in 1947, did not recall teaching him until Dr. King saw him years later at a restaurant and went up and introduced himself," writes Seelye.

“You don’t remember me,” Dr. King said when he approached Freeman, “but I remember you.”

Freeman also taught Texas representative Barbara Jordan, who argued for President Richard M. Nixon's impeachment in 1974, and advised Denzel Washington for the 2007 historical drama, The Great Debaters.

Per a statement from TSU, Dr. Freeman was born in Richmond, Virginia, and leaves behind his wife Clarice Estell and their children, Thomas Franklin Jr., Carter Evan, and Dr. Carlotta Vanessa, along with several grandchildren and two great grandchildren. TSU has established the Dr. Thomas F. Freeman Memorial Fund to support the TSU Debate Team program—donations can be made here. You can watch Dr.Freeman's memorial service at TSU below.

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We're extending our deepest sympathies to all who knew and loved Dr. Freeman. We know his legacy will live on in the bright and beautiful students of his that continue using words as their power, and this power to change the world.

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