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HomeOmega Spingarn Recipients


The Spingarn Medal was instituted in 1914 by the late J.E. Spingarn (then Chairman of the NAACP Board of Directors), who gave annually until his death in 1939, a gold medal to be awarded for the highest or noblest achievement by an American Negro during the preceding year or years. A fund sufficient to continue the award was set up by his will to perpetuate this award.

The purpose of the medal is twofold: first to call the attention of the American people to the existence of distinguished merit and achievement among Americans of African descent and secondly to serve as a reward for such achievement, and as a stimulus to the ambition of youth of color.


Omega psi phi Spingarn Medal Winners:


1915:  Professor Ernest E. Just, 8/14/1883 – 10/27/1941
Head of Physiology, Howard University Medical School for research in biology. He is one of the founders of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc.  He was the first recipient of the NAACP Spingarn Award.


1916: Major Charles Young, 3/12/1864 – 1/8/1922
West Point graduate and first African American to reach the rank of Colonel.  He was also the first African American to be appointed National Park Superintendent and the first African American military attache’.  He serviced in organizing the Liberian Constabulary and roads in the Republic of Liberia.


1924: Roland Hayes, 6/13/1887 – 1/1/1979
A lyric tenor and composer. He sang toured with the Fisk Jubilee Singers. He had an artistry for interpreting Negro folk songs He performed with the Boston Symphony Orchestra and was the first African American recording artist with Columbia records.


1926: Carter G. Woodson, 12/19/1875 – 4/3/1950
Harvard Ph. D. historian and Founder of the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History; editor, Negro Orators and Their Orations for his outstanding work as an historian.


1943: William H. Hastie, 11/1/1904 – 4/14/1976
Federal Judge and Educator; chosen for his distinguished career as a jurist and uncompromising champion of equal justice. He is a graduate of Amherst College and received his law degree from Harvard.  He was appointed by President Truman as Governor of the U.S. Virgin Islands.

1944: Charles Drew, 6/3/2004 – 4/1/1950
Scientist; chosen for his outstanding work in blood plasma; research led to establishment of blood plasma bank.


1947: Dr. Percy Julian, 4/11/1899 – 4/19/1975
Research Chemist chosen for the development of chemical synthesis and numerous important discoveries that have saved many lives.


1953: Paul R. Williams, 2/18/1894 – 1/23/1980
Distinguished architect, for his pioneer contributions as a creative designer of livable, attractive modern dwellings. He was the first African American member of the American Institute of Architecture (AIA).


1958: The Little Rock Nine, Ernest G. Greene, Sr. 9/22/1941 -
For their pioneer role in upholding the basic ideals of American democracy in the face of continuing harassment and constant threats of bodily injury. They were the first African Americans to integrate Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas in 1959. Ernest Greene was the first to graduate.


1960: Langston M. Hughes, 2/1/1902 – 5/22/1967
He was a poet, author and playwright. He was an innovator of jazz poetry and one of the leaders of the Harlem Renaissance.


1962: Robert C. Weaver, 12/29/1907 – 7/17/1997
Administrator, Housing and Home Finance Agency; he was the first African American appointed as Secretary of Housing & Urban Development (HUD).  He had a long and dedicated career of public service at the municipal, state and federal levels. He also served as a Harvard professor.


1964: Roy Wilkins, 8/30/2001 – 9/8/1981
Executive Director, NAACP. For his leadership, integrity and his dedicated service.


1969: Clarence M. Mitchell, Jr, 3/8/1911 – 3/19/1984

He was Director of the Washington Bureau of the NAACP and a civil rights activist/lobbyist. He played a pivotal role in the enactment of civil rights legislation.


1973 :Wilson C. Riles, 6/27/1917 – 4/1/1999
Educator recognized for stature he has attained as a national leader in the field of education. He was the first African American appointed to statewide office and held the position of State Superintendent of Public Education.


1982: Benjamin Elijah Mays, 8/11/1894 – 3/28/1984
Educator, theologian and humanitarian. He was a former President of Morehouse College. He was a civil rights activist and Presidential Advisor to Presidents John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B.  Johnson and Jimmy Carter.


1985: William H. Cosby, Jr. 7/12/1937
Humorist, artist, educator, television and movie entertainer, and humanitarian.


1986: Benjamin Lawson Hooks, 1/31/1925 – 4/15/2010
He was a former Executive Director of the NAACP.  He was also a minister and attorney and was recognized for his precedent-setting accomplishments.


1989: Jesse Louis Jackson, Sr.
Clergyman, political leader, civil rights activist; first American of African descent to become a major presidential candidate.


1990: Lawrence Douglas Wilder
Governor, public servant, attorney and visionary in tribute to an extraordinary life of accomplishment.


1999: Earl G. Graves, Sr.
Founder, Black Enterprise Magazine; Businessman, publisher, educator, advocate, entrepreneur, family man.


2001: Vernon E. Jordan
Lawyer, Advisor to Presidents, Champion of Civil Rights and Human Rights, Exemplar and True Believer.