Pioneering Atlanta educator, Moses C. Norman influenced a generation

Moses C. Norman never sat on the sidelines in life.

Not as a pioneering educator. Not as a devoted member of the tight-knit Omega Psi Phi Fraternity. And not in the 30 years he juggled his work in education with a side job in NCAA college football.

“He had a lot of energy. He had a lot of bandwidth to get a lot done,” son Chris Norman said. “He was not pedestrian really in anything that he did.”

Moses C. Norman Sr., the recently retired dean of Clark Atlanta University’s School of Education, former area superintendent in Atlanta Public Schools and the longest-serving national president of Omega Psi Phi, died peacefully at his Atlanta home Tuesday morning. He was 82.

The funeral service is at 11 a.m. Monday, July 17, at Christian Fellowship Baptist Church, 1500 Norman Drive, College Park, Georgia. The public is welcome at an Omega Psi Phi memorial service at 5 p.m. Sunday at the church.

Education, the English language and the “Omega men” brotherhood were lifelong devotions for the married father of three. Willie Norman, 89, said younger brother Moses displayed a love of learning from an early age.

Growing up in Jones County, near Macon, the Norman family had an elderly neighbor who could not read. The man would buy a newspaper and ask one of the children to read it to him, Willie Norman said. By the time Moses Norman was 10 or 12, he had taken it upon himself to teach the neighbor to read the newspaper. He later taught him to write his name.

That was a big deal in the 1940s, when there was many a man “who lived and died and wouldn’t know his own name if he saw it,” Willie Norman said.

He recalled that their grandfather long predicted that Moses would grow up to be a professor.

After high school, Norman moved to Atlanta to attend what was then Clark College and begin the path to two education careers – first in APS and then in higher education.

He received his undergraduate degree in English from Clark College in 1957, his Master’s degree in English Language and Literature from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, in 1963 and his doctorate in Philosophy in Educational Leadership and Management from Georgia State University in 1978.

In the late 1950s, Norman began a 30-year career with APS, starting as a classroom teacher and advancing to become one of the school system’s first African American area superintendents and later assistant superintendent for secondary education.

As an area school superintendent, Norman organized all schools into feeder attendance clusters with the goal of fostering cooperation in planning, implementing and assessing the schools against their academic expectations. He established two Saturday schools that offered tutoring in math and writing to elementary and high school students. He also had key roles in establishing several high school magnet programs, in expanding gifted education and in creating an annual fine arts festival for K-12 students.

Norman later moved to the Atlanta University Center, where he was a teacher/coordinator in pre-college programs for academically talented students. He also was an adjunct professor of leadership and policy studies at Atlanta University, Spelman College, Morris Brown College and the University of West Georgia.

Norman retired as dean of the School of Education at Clark Atlanta in June due to failing health, his family said.

Ronald Johnson, president of the university, said Norman “loved his calling, developing and nurturing leaders in the field of education.”

“And he not only loved his students, but he modeled for us all the role of a servant leader in the higher education environment,” Johnson said.

In his decades as a member of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Norman held virtually every office. He was the fraternity’s longest-serving Grand Basileus , serving as its leader from 1984 to 1990. He also was instrumental in the fraternity establishing a credit union.

“It’s a lifelong expectation for members to remain involved,” his son said.

All three of Norman’s sons are Omega men and, like their dad, subscribe to the fraternity edict that “friendship is essential to the soul,” Chris Norman said.

He described his father as a valued counselor and friend.

Norman was also a former director of football officials for the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference and worked more than 20 NCAA championship playoff games, including the 1993 Division II National Championship Game.

He had a long list of community associations and awards and took an active role in his church. He was chair of the deacon staff, was a Sunday morning Bible study teacher and member of the Sanctuary Choir.

His survivors include Gertrude C. Norman, his wife of more than 53 years; his children, Moses Conrad Norman Jr. (Kym), Christopher Kent Norman and Jeffrey Brenton Norman (Joy); and grandchildren Moses Conrad Norman III, Jeffrey Brenton Norman II and Chloe Genevieve Norman.

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