By: Donald V. Watkins
Copyrighted and Published on December 28, 2023
An Editorial Opinion
On December 20, 2023, Thomas W. Thagard, III, sent a “Cease and Desist” letter to independent journalists Roger Alan Shuler and me. The letter threatened us with a bogus defamation lawsuit over recent articles we published on the growing scandal surrounding Alabama A&M University’s refusal to publicly acknowledge and demand payment of a $527,280,064 debt owed to the university by the state of Alabama.
Thomas W. Thagard, III, is the son of Thomas W. Thagard, Jr. (deceased), a former Balch & Bingham attorney who represented Auburn University in the long-running Knight v. Alabama higher education desegregation case that I filed for the original plaintiffs in 1981.
Auburn University, which benefited financially from over a hundred years of funding discrimination against Alabama A&M, fought “tooth and nail” against court-ordered equitable funding for Alabama A&M.
Thomas W. Thagard, Jr., who was a brilliant lawyer and the son of Judge Thomas Werth Thagard, also succeeded in getting former U.S. District Court Judge U.W. Clemon, who is black, booted from presiding over the case after Clemon issued his 1991 court opinion in favor of the plaintiffs in the case.
Today, Alabama A&M President Daniel Wims has aligned himself with Thomas W. Thagard, III, and weaponized Thagard to threaten journalists who criticized Wims' failure to claim and collect the $527,280,064 debt that rightfully belongs to Alabama A&M.
The optics of this new cozy Wims-Thagard bedfellows arrangement are horrible for Alabama A&M, given Thomas W. Thagard, Jr.'s long, ugly, and adversarial history with Alabama A&M. This is the kind of misguided move we would expect from a certified and compromised "Uncle Tom" like Clarence Thomas.
Daniel K. Wims is a proven "sellout" to Bulldog Nation who has masqueraded as Alabama A&M president since January 2022. University's trustees, who should be closely supervising Wims, are merely ceremonial pawns in his harmful game of "buck-dancing."
As for me, I am okay with fighting two generations of Thomas W. Thagards to secure the equitable funding that is due and owing to Alabama A&M, including the $527,280,064 that President Wims is afraid to collect. I am accustomed to waging long, hard, aggressive, fights to enforce our civil and constitutional rights.
I have been fighting for equitable funding for Alabama A&M University since 1973. I don’t care if the threat to Alabama A&M's equitable funding is perpetrated by a white or black adversary, or it comes from inside or outside of the university, or it involves a first or second generation legal gunslinger.
Now you understand why our adversaries in Alabama do not want us to know our history. They want us clueless, compromised, and weak like Daniel K. Wims and his current board of university trustees.