Profile of P. Eric Abercrumbie

Father Figure

Director of University Student Affairs Dr. P. Eric Abercrumbie looks back on his 45-year UC career.

Date: 02/05/2018 11:00:00 AM   

By: Jonathan Goolsby
Contact: Julie Campbell-Holmes
Phone: (513) 509-1114
Photos:  University of Cincinnati

CINCINNATI, Oh. — Dr. P. Eric Abercrumbie (“Dr. E.,” or simply “Doc,” to the people whose lives he has touched most deeply) is the University of Cincinnati’s Director of University Student Affairs, and an immutable figure in the university’s African-American community.

He’s also a firebrand. And he doesn’t shy away from that reputation.

Photograph of Eric Abercrumbie at U.C.'s African American Resource Center

Dr. P. Eric Abercrumbie at UC's African American Resource Center

“Politically I can bring it to you,” he chuckled. “Socially, I’m introverted.” Abercrumbie has been a fixture on UC’s campus since 1972, when he arrived here as a professional counselor and cultural sensitivity trainer.

“Here I was, coming right out of the ‘60s: big Afro, 28-inch waist,” he chuckled. “When I came along, my partner and I, we did what was called sensitivity training.”

“Diversity training says everybody comes to the table, right? You get a workbook and everybody works through concepts and everybody is made to feel comfortable.

“In the old-time sensitivity training, you would say, ‘If you're sitting in here and you're white, you a racist.’ That's the way it started, you make the incisions, just like that,” Abercrumbie said.

“But here's what's deep: white people that brought you in, knew what you were going to do. They didn't mind the approach.”

In the 1970s, he implied, injustice might have been more institutionally apparent, but people were paradoxically more willing to discuss their role in perpetuating it, without taking personal offense.

Over the years, Abercrumbie’s role evolved, first in 1976 when he was named the Program Coordinator for the university’s nascent Office of Minority Affairs, and again in 1983 when he developed and began producing the critically-acclaimed Black Man Think Tank.

In the late 1980s, Abercrumbie was instrumental in helping the university to honor its long-standing promise to open a a black cultural center, even as it faced resistance from some students, faculty and board members.

Over the course of his 45-year career here, he’s experienced both inspiring victories and confidence-shaking lows. Abercrumbie’s passion and spirit have never been broken — they’ve only grown stronger.

But who is Dr. P. Eric Abercrumbie when he’s off the clock? Who is he out of the public eye?

Read more about Eric Abercrumbie

No Gen X-er, Millennial, or iKid can remember a time in America when “separate but equal” was a legally-practiced philosophy.

Abercrumbie can.

He was born in 1948 — 6 years before the Supreme Court of the United States ruled the concept unconstitutional — and grew up in tiny Falmouth, Kentucky, 35 miles from Cincinnati.

“I'm a desegregation baby. I'm Brown v. Board of Education,” he recalled. “At 4 years old, I went to a one-room school. When I went into my 1st grade year, I had to go 44 miles round trip every day because of the color of my skin.”

“I'm the first-and-only. First-and-only black player on the basketball team. First-and-only black person in Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, on and on and on.

“Same guys I played basketball with, I couldn't go to a show with. I had to sit upstairs, and I was one of the stars on the team. Can't play pool today; black folk weren't allowed in the pool room. Can't skate today; my den mother said you can't go,” he said.

“Part of my scarring is not only white people, but my own people, helping me to feel inferior. I didn't know about the 1963 March on Washington,” he reflected. “I wasn't hearing about Malcolm X.”

Even as a child, though, he could see that hypocrisy.

“I was exposed to education real early, especially [by] my grandfather. He had no education, but he knew ABCs,” Abercrumbie said.

By the time he began going to integrated schools, he was reading. He had a love of English. And he knew that whatever he was experiencing, it shouldn’t have been normal. He knew that life was different elsewhere.

In 1963, he moved with his mother and aunt, closer in to the city. And his perspective widened.

“Who is Eric Abercrumbie when he’s off?” Doc laughed. “I always knew that religion, education, and family were foundations for me. When you say who am I outside those other things? I'm a person sitting in a chair watching basketball. That's my passion, that's what I love.”

In his early teen years, Abercrumbie found himself in a bigger place, although still one of few black students in his school. He played guard on the basketball team. He ran cross-country, in the off-season, to stay in peak condition. He idolized the Bearcats.

“I loved the University of Cincinnati from the time that I was 12 years old,” he smiled. “My role model was Tom Thacker, number 25.”

“Basketball had a great influence on me growing up,” Abercrumbie reminisced. “It propelled me. I could see myself one day being Tom Thacker or an Oscar Robertson.”

Playing ball also helped him to realize that he could, and should, compete with whites — and not just on the court. It boosted his confidence and sharpened his ability to see injustice.

He noticed some white people were treating him with more hospitably in certain surroundings — because of his athletic abilities, he knew — even as they continued treating him poorly in others.

“People outside our school environment, they took a liking to me. If we played somebody, people would acknowledge me. Some would say, ‘Aw, man, you're really good,’” he noted.

“But, you've got to understand, I'm the only black person in the whole place. I'm the only. I'm like, to white people, a novelty because now they really get to see somebody black up close.

“That's why it bothers me today that, as adults, some of these people will deny the things that I'm saying, when not one of them, even down to the parents and everything [when I was] playing sports, will deal with how they oppressed me and abused me. It's rough, man, being the first and only one. They will not deal with that.

“To this day, if I say something, and someone sees it — Facebook, this, that and the other — [and they say], ‘Oh, I didn't know.’ Please! You're offending me. You the one sat in the front seat telling n----- jokes. You the one telling me I better not put my hands on little white girls.”

Still, he found solace in the understanding that there were cracks in the wall. And he knew that, one day, he would work to widen them.

Abercrumbie has always found comfort in church.

“My other passion is gospel music,” he divulged. “A lot of people don't know this. I was influential in starting three gospel choirs. One when I was an undergrad, two here at the University of Cincinnati.”

“I love church. I love the experience of black church,” Abercrumbie stated. “If I wanted you to have a real black experience, really wanted you to get connected, the place I would take you would be to the black church.”

He noted that the church is unique entity black Americans have carved out for themselves — paradoxically, out of the very yoke that was once used to hold them down.

“People are afraid of God. People are afraid of going to Hell,” Abercrumbie observed. “The one place in history that you see blacks and whites seemingly getting along and embracing the same thing, even on the plantation, is when they are worshipping God.

“God, by whites, [was] used as a mechanism to keep black folk in their place. It worked, so the only institution black folk owned and controlled is the black church. That's the only one that we can say is truly ours.

“Other places, like Historically Black Colleges, museums — usually there are whites involved in those, on the board, giving corporate money, whatever. My black church is mine. There can be no penetration. No one can take it.”

Even so, he said, many members of the black community go out of their way to way to make others feel welcome in their churches.

“That's a lot of times what happens with whites, is when you come to the black church, people say, ‘Wow, that was really embracing.’ Because we go out of our way to make you feel welcome,” he emphasized.

Abercrumbie feels such welcoming behavior bespeaks many black congregants’ virtue, but also underscores that, in America today, racial dialogue is still often and unfortunately one-sided.

“See, that’s the opposite for me, if I were giving the talk. Black folk are still the guests in America. That's why we have the problem that we have,” he observed.

The disconnect, Abercrumbie seems to feel, is both a point of contention and an opportunity for increased engagement.

“The one common thread that gets murky in America is this issue of religion and white Christians and black Christians. When you go back into history, it was whites who were freedom fighters. Many of them were Christian people. That bonding of, ‘Okay we'll argue about what color Jesus is later and who God is, but for right now there's a common passion.’”

“That common passion is the truthful, rightful, humane treatment of people,” he said. “That's why I talk about religion and how important it is to me.”

The reader should be careful not to think Abercrumbie anti-white. He’s not. He is is pro-black. And there’s an enormous difference.

Now 69 years old, his experiences tell him that a post-racial America isn’t a truly achievable goal.

“Impossible,” he pronounced. “It's a utopian idea.”

“Most white people still today only see black people two ways: on TV and out the car window,” he observed. “Most of these young people today are still coming out of segregated environments. That hasn't changed.”

 “No, if we can get to a place of mutual respect and peaceful co-existence, that's the closest, I think, that we're going to get to it,” Abercrumbie said, resignedly.

But Abercrumbie didn’t always think a de-racialized society was unattainable.

“When I was 16, 17 years old, I'm still trying to be a multiculturalist,” he recounted. “If you’d have come up to me, I would've said, ‘Yeah, I know discrimination,’ but I really didn't know what racism was. I never realized it was an organized plan to keep me where I was. I was convinced [I could] break through.”

His awakening, he explained, came in the late ’60s and early ‘70s, when he was a student at Eastern Kentucky University.

“When I was in college, that was a whole different thing,” Abercrumbie recalled. “I'll never forget how a white guy said, ‘If you come home with me, you've got to come in my back door.’”

“1968, the day Dr. King was assassinated, I was in Commonwealth Hall at Eastern Kentucky University: me and my roommate. The campus cheered, man. White guys came in and threw a Confederate flag over my roommate. That's the kind of stuff that I endured.”

Abercrumbie says he found few allies at EKU. But he did find mentors.

“I met Dr. William Berge [and his wife, Marion]. He was our advisor for a choir on campus and a fraternity that I chartered. They liked me. They really cared for me. They understood my politics. Dr. Berge was well-respected,” he remembered.

Abercrumbie said that the Berges taught him how to see around the personal barriers that people sometimes erect. They showed him how to inspire others to achieve. And those were lessons he would employ, later, in his career at UC.

Indeed, the Berges made such an impression on the young Doc that he asked them to be godparents to his son. And he learned that they, in turn, maintained their interest in helping him along in life, long after he graduated — another example he took to heart.

“When my uncle passed away, I look up. There's Mrs. Berge, Dr. Berge. There they are. We're in Falmouth, Kentucky. They live in Richmond. I didn't even know they knew.”

Over the course of his UC career, Abercrumbie encountered other people like the Berges, who lifted him up and encouraged him when he was discouraged, who pushed him to fight for his ideals, his career and his dignity.

One of those was the late Linda Bates Parker, known affectionately around campus as “Ma,” who hired him for his first UC job.

Another was Lanthan Camblin, the history professor and faculty activist who reached and helped guide him during what Abercrumbie describes as the lowest point in his career — the aftermath of the “Trash Party” scandal.

Dr. E. has never been one to shy away from conflict. He’s never been one to take it lying down. But one fight clearly left him with some deep wounds.

On January 17, 1982, UC’s Sigma Alpha Epsilon (SAE) chapter infamously hosted an unsanctioned, racially-provocative “MLK Day Trash Day” party at its then-house mother’s off-campus apartment.

Prior to the event, the fraternity circulated a flyer — signed, among others, by its chapter president, JP Morgan — inviting attendees to “a rebelous [sic] celebration” to honor “the life and death of the (Great) Liberator, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.”

Among the flyer’s extraordinarily inflammatory missives, partygoers were told to wear blackface or a Klan hood, bring ribs, watermelon and fried chicken, bring a cancelled welfare check, or to invite along “your father, if you know who he is.”

Approximately 100 students — all white — reportedly attended the party.

In its wake, the NAACP, UC’s United Association of Black Faculty and Staff, its student-led United Black Association (UBA) and a large, diverse coalition of outraged students, faculty and staffers, pressured then-president Dr. Henry Winkler, the administration and the Interfraternity Council to suspend the chapter.

Although Winkler subsequently suspended the chapter for 2 years, Art Slater — Executive Director of Cincinnati’s chapter of the NAACP — called the punishment a “slap on the wrist” and angrily called for SAE’s permanent expulsion from the university.

Winkler declined to do so.

Passions were further inflamed approximately a year-and-a-half later when, after undergoing a re-chartering process, SAE’s suspension was reduced by 4½ months and the chapter was allowed to return.

Many in the UC community, including Abercrumbie, serving then as UC’s Assistant Director of the Office of Minority Programs and Services, publicly and vehemently cried foul.

Shortly thereafter, UC’s student newspaper, The News Record, ran an editorial [“Abercrumbie’s remarks racist; his usefulness at UC is over,” 20 April 1983, pg. 6] calling for his ouster from the university.

For the next 6 weeks, repeated editorials and letters to the editor alternately took up his cause or called for his dismissal.

“People continually said, ‘He's too black. He's really one of the most negative forces on our campus. He doesn't belong on any campus in America.’ I didn't take no attitude. I kept my faith in God, and I said, ‘Okay. This is what people think,’” Abercrumbie recalled.

He admitted, though, that he felt downcast.

 “I was a person who had to endure the pain of what happened to the SAEs. That's what a lot of people don't realize, that came after me, because from the time that I came, people always thought that I was the — underground even — structure of the black movement on this campus,” he asserted.

Abercrumbie did consider leaving. He felt unduly scapegoated, and he was deeply hurt by what he felt was, at the time, a lack of support from the administration.

Portrait photogaph of Dr. Abercrumbie.

Dr. P. Eric Abercrumbie

But several faculty members, including Dr. Camblin and a Dr. Johnson, from UC’s School of Education, spoke out in support of him and personally offered their aid. The then-head of the Graduate School’s Yates Fellowship Program encouraged him to seek his doctorate.

They convinced him to stay. To continue fighting.

“I found a whole new constituency,” Abercrumbie beamed. “If it weren't for those people I wouldn't be sitting here with a PhD now, I know that. They were my blessing. Pulled me up out of the ditch.”

“[I] began to develop allies, even among students who didn't look like me — in the international community, in the white community, in the Hispanic community, in the Asian community,” he said, his eyes lighting up. “That's what I worked toward.”

Abercrumbie applied to the Graduate School. He dove in. By 1987, he’d earned his doctorate in Interdisciplinary Studies from the College of Arts & Sciences.

In the interim, he developed the critically-acclaimed Black Man Think Tank — a symposium of black academics and leaders held more or less annually from 1983 into the 2000s. He worked with students, faculty and staff to shed light on racial divisions, on campus and in the community.

He credits his liberal arts training with helping him become an effective catalyst for change, a thoughtful educator and a sought-after expert.

“It gave me courage,” he emphasized, “because I knew that the things that I said would have basis. It prepared me."

Photograph of U.C. Magazine cover featuring the A.A.R.C.'s 25th anniversary.

UC Magazine celebrated the AARC's 25th anniversary in 2016.

The earlier negativity yielded one other positive outcome: it galvanized the UBA and its allies. The students successfully lobbied the university to make good on a promise first made in the 1970s – to open a black cultural center (today’s African American Cultural & Resource Center) on campus.

In 1989, Abercrumbie became the AACRC’s first leader, as UC’s Director of Minority Programs and Services. He helped develop its programs, including Akwaaba — the autumn welcome event for incoming black students — and Tyehimba, its annual capstone celebration of student successes.

“There’s nobody like Doc,” attested Ewaniki Moore-Hawkins, a 2002 graduate of UC’s Carl H. Lindner College of Business, who now serves as the AACRC’s director.

“I never thought about a career in student affairs or higher ed. I came here to be a doctor,” she said.

Moore-Hawkins quickly found herself in over her head in her pre-medical studies. But Abercrumbie saw something in her — like the Berges had in him so many years before — and he took her under his wing. He challenged her.

“He knew I wasn’t doing that well,’ she recalled. “He said, ‘I know that you can do better. You know what? If you can bring me a 3.0, I’m gonna put you on scholarship.’ And he said it to me as like a fleeting thought, just one day in passing.”

“I’m like, ‘Man, was he serious?’ But I took that thought, and then I worked hard, I explored what my major could be and what I might be good at. I achieved what he told me to achieve with that 3.0,” Moore-Hawkins said.

And she found out that Abercrumbie had not only made a serious offer, he’d kept close tabs on her progress behind the scenes.

“Before I could even go and say, ‘Hey, Doc, I did what you asked me to do,’ that scholarship was already on my bill. So, he’d been watching, tracking me to make sure. It’s instances like that really had great impact,” she said. “Totally changed my life.”

Encouraged by that success, Moore-Hawkins switched her major to Marketing and Entrepreneurship, in which she continued to thrive. Still, Dr. E. wasn’t quite done guiding her.

“He said to me, after I was done, ‘Hey, I don’t know what your plan is. I know that you mentioned that you wanted to go into the corporate world, but would you consider working here? You’ve proven yourself as a student leader, and you’d make a great asset,’” she recounted.

“It opened my eyes to this field. I knew I wanted to give back to students, just like he had poured into us,” she said. “Now 15, almost 16 years later, I’m still here.”

Moore-Hawkins considers herself part of a family lineage that traces back, through Doc, to other parental figures who have been part of the UC community. And, in her work today, she tries to set the same example.

“That’s what I do with other students. I make goals with them, and I set out challenges: ‘If you do this, then I’ll take you to Starbucks.’ It can be something small, but it’s that something small that makes a difference,” she said.

Of course, her contributions extend far past the occasional afternoon latte. That’s evidenced by the fact that her own mentees have continued the lineage.

This year, for example, alumnus Andrew Oyedeji (Lindner, ’12) established the Ewaniki Moore-Hawkins Village Keeper Scholarship — in honor of her “huge part in laying the foundation" of his life and career — here at UC.

It’s all part of Abercrumbie’s legacy, according to Moore-Hawkins.

“Doc always reminds us that, ‘It didn’t start with you,’” she said. “There were people that were here at this institution that laid the bricks that you walk on, so you owe it to them to be aware of what they did and then be able to continue that legacy, to drive it forward and tell others about it.”

In 1998, Abercrumbie hired Stacy Downing (A&S, ’96) into her first professional role — Program Coordinator for the AACRC, a role he himself had served in. Today, she’s Dr. Downing, Vice President of Student Affairs at Delaware State University.

“I was truly a ‘Cultural Center kid,’” Downing wrote, reached by e-mail. “Doc did not let up on any of us, especially if he saw our potential.”

“The way I work to this day is a testament to the mentorship I received from Doc. He is fair, but firm. Challenging, yet encouraging. When I was a student, he would always say ‘leadership is not part-time.’ I’ve used this same quote a million times with my students,” Downing testified.

“Doc will make you feel like you can conquer the world and, at the same time, tell you where you need to improve,” she wrote. “I give him credit for pushing to levels that I never thought I could achieve.”

“Doc has become a major influence in my professional and personal life,” Downing closed. “I consider him my second dad, a role that became even more important when my father passed away. To this very day, I seek his advice before making critical decisions.”

But why? What is it in Abercrumbie’s approach that so many students have responded to?

“I think it was the motivation, the challenge and the accountability,” Moore-Hawkins proffered. “It’s kind of like his secret sauce, right?”

“You knew that if you were gonna come into the Center, he was gonna ask you, ‘How are you doing in class? Are you sitting in the front of the class?’” she said. “There was an accountability there. And because he is like a father figure, you don’t come to your dad and tell no lies. You tell the truth. You do what you need to do.”

Another distinguished alumnus who considers himself part of Abercrumbie’s student “family” is Dr. Jeffery Burgin (A&S, ’97), who served as president of UC’s Student Government in 1995, and today is Associate Provost & Dean of Students for Belmont University.

As a high school student, in 1989, Burgin was inspired to come to UC when he heard Abercrumbie speak during a Summer Incentive Program (SIP) event sponsored by the AACRC.

He confesses, though, that he didn’t quite know at first what to make of the man he heard speaking.

“I will never forget him saying that, ‘Brothers don’t flunk out of school, they f--- out of school,’” Burgin said, laughing incredulously. “I was shocked. I was like, ‘Did he really just say that?’ I was thinking, ‘Who is this guy, and what is he talking about? I can’t believe he said that.’”

But he recognized the knowledge Doc was trying to impart: education is important for advancement and, to realize opportunities, one must prioritize personal discipline.

“The commentary that he provided about the development of black men and being a successful college student resonated with me,” Burgin explained, echoing the mantra Downing related.

Like Downing, Burgin describes his younger self as, “a Cultural Center kid.”

And, like his fellow Walnut Hills High School alum Moore-Hawkins, Burgin says he came to UC to study one thing (in his case, a lawyer), only to discover, with Abercrumbie’s help, that his calling lay elsewhere.

“I spent most of my days in the Cultural Center imbibing everything that it had to offer: programs, mentoring, events, and the like,” he recalled.

Those programs, he said, taught him to value a culture he’d grown up in, but understood preciously little about.

“I was in a class and doing an assignment on African history and culture. And I remember people in the class talking about Africans ‘not having any history,’” Burgin remembered. “The faculty member didn’t stand up and correct that. That’s when I decided to change my major to African-American Studies [today, Africana Studies].”

“With that, you took The Black Man class and you took The Adolescent Black Male, all taught by Dr. Abercrumbie,” he explained. “I began to understand that I am important and I have a place in this world.”

“The commentary that he provided, about the development of black men and being a successful college student, resonated with me,” Burgin said. “Because of those experiences, it called to me want to, as [Moore-Hawkins] said, pour into the students who were in my stead, just as much — if not more — as was poured into me.”

“A lot of people like Doc, especially the elders, often see things in you that you cannot, at the moment, see yourself,” he observed. “They don’t want you to miss that moment and trip up. It’s almost like he was saying ‘Get out your own way. And I’m gonna help you get out your own way.’”

One of those moments, Burgin remembered, came in 1995, on the AACRC’s annual Spring Break tour, outside the Sarratt Student Center at Vanderbilt University.

“Everyone got off the bus and Doc told me to stay behind,” he said. “He was telling me, ‘You have a choice: either you’re going to be what people say you are as a black male, or you can stand up, be a man and be a leader. Don’t talk about it, be about it.’”

“I often think about ‘sitting at the elder’s feet.’ He’s one of those individuals that, without question, I’d want to spend time with and hang on every word,” Burgin said. “I wanted to emulate that and be an example in higher education.”

For his part, a year ago, Abercrumbie thought he was spent. After more than 40 years at UC, he’d felt his retirement was nigh at hand.

But fate has a way of stepping in.

The university’s 2019 bicentennial was approaching. A new UC president was taking office. There were high-profile struggles for equality still to play out.

And, suddenly, Abercrumbie knew he still had fight left in him. He knew he could still be of service.

“God said, ‘These are your children. When you came here you were a baby, now you the grandfather. This is where I planted you, they need you,’ he smiled.

“[UC needs] strong black faculty and staff,” Abercrumbie insisted. “That's where we're really valued, because there are issues.”

“If you and I work together, you can always go home and avoid it. I've still got to go in my community somewhere — black church, sorority dance, fraternity dance, somewhere. People identify me,” he said. “The question, all the time, especially when things are negative, [is] ‘What are you all doing to our children up there? How are you all going to improve things?’”

“To me, this is the value of having a multi-cultural staff: that you have people who are on the battlefield with you. We can stand side-by-side and [I] can go in and help you fight the battle,” Abercrumbie asserted. “That's one of the reasons I really thought, Eric, it's not time for you to leave yet.”

Moore-Hawkins is glad he’s staying. She strives to honor the faith he showed in her and to live the legacy he will eventually leave.

“People sometimes say, ‘Are you gonna be a lifer, too, like Doc? Are you next?’” she said. “I was meant to sit here so that, when students walk through the door, they were meant to meet me along their collegiate journey. It’s not by happenstance. It’s not by accident.”

“His legacy goes far beyond the University of Cincinnati,” Moore-Hawkins noted. “There are so many organizations and communities he’s been a part of. The Association for Black Culture Centers. For many years, he was the president of the John D. O’Bryant Think Tank.  His efforts and his impact spread wide.”

Burgin is even more pointed in his praise.

Had it not been for Abercrumbie, he said, “I don’t think I would have taken an interest in really knowing who Theodore Moody Berry was, or Donald Spencer and Mrs. Spencer, and the importance of their legacies.”

 “I think back to Ms. Beasley and all those people, and staying connected,” he said. “Doc is like the glue. He’s the essential piece of the puzzle that allows for African-American culture and family at the University of Cincinnati to occur. He’s the piece that ties it all together.”

Abercrumbie doesn’t deny he’s put in his dues to be that glue.

“A lot of my sweat is in this place,” he said. “No matter what I've experienced, I always give my best. So, my wish is I plan to go out on empty. I don't have as much as I did when I first started. I'm less than half full, but I'm not empty.”

“I'm trying to make it at least to 2019,” he affirmed, “so that we get to that historic point, hopefully we can talk about, even with the bad and the ugly, there's some good.”

Photograph of Dr. Abercrumbie at an A.A.R.C. event.

Dr. Abercrumbie at an AARC event

And he will have a prominent role in telling the university’s whole story. He’s serving as a member of UC’s Bicentennial Legacy Committee which is tasked with, among other things, “the creation of one or more permanent historical displays around campus.”

“Dr. Abercrumbie was asked to serve on the UC Bicentennial Legacy Committee because of his rich history with the University of Cincinnati,” said Allied Health professor Tracy Herrmann, the committee’s co-chair. “He’s played a key role in determining the themes for the Legacy initiative.”

“What I learned a long time ago, is the value in education,” Abercrumbie said. “I am the example.”

And, even though so many people in 1983 said that he was a divider, Abercrumbie is confident that he’s knocked quite a few holes in the racial wall.

“If I died today, I know that everybody, everybody who comes to my service won't look like me,” he predicted. “You come to my funeral, if there is one, and you look in that audience, and [if] everybody in that audience looks like me, then you can write, ‘He failed.’ That's fine with me.”

Doc paused and smiled.

“But, if you come, and you see some of every complexion, some of every gender, some of every ethnicity, then you say, ‘Eric Abercrumbie was a winner.’”