First Black Athlete to Graduate Auburn Tells Story


Montgomery, Ala.– Leadership Montgomery held their monthly Power Lunch Series on May 17, 2017 at the MACOA Archibald Center. The guest speaker was Thom Gossom Jr., the first Black athlete to graduate from Auburn University.

Gossom talked about his published memoir, Walk-On: My Reluctant Journey To Integration at Auburn University. He shared how it was his dream to become the first Black football player for Auburn. Gossom walked on the team during the birth of integration. At the time the student population was 14,000. Only 50 of those students were Black. Gossom struggled with the change of integration as he experienced racism and prejudice on and off the field.

“My basketball coach in the ninth grade helped me” Gossom said as he shared how an opponent refused to play them because of his skin color. “I didn’t understand at the time. My coach told me that this is bigger than basketball, we are changing a way of life.”

Gossom is a living example that you can overcome any obstacles that are meant to keep you from success. By walking on the team, he challenged tradition.  The next year he received a scholarship and later became the first Black athlete to graduate Auburn University.

A native of Birmingham, Alabama, Gossom is now an American actor, writer and communications professional. After graduating Auburn, Gossom earned a Master of Arts in Communication from The University of Montevallo. Gossom was a starting wide receiver for the Tigers, from 1972-1974. He is featured in the HBO special, “Breaking the Huddle,” about integration of Southern college football. He is the immediate past chairman of the Auburn University Foundation Board of Directors where a $1 billion-dollar goal was reached during his term although the campaign is ongoing until the end of 2017. He lives in Ft. Walton Beach, FL and is married to Dr. Joyce Gilley Gossom.

Mr. Gossom is owner and President of Best Gurl, Inc. a communications firm. When not writing, producing or acting, Gossom is a frequent speaker for universities, corporation and civic organizations. Through his experience, intellect and wit, he inspires, entertains, educates and motivates his audience.

“Not only did we learn of his journey, but we saw his brilliance as a storyteller and an actor played out before our eyes” said Leadership Montgomery Power Lunch Committee Chair Dottie Blair. “It was captivating.”

Leadership Montgomery: The mission of Leadership Montgomery is to develop diverse leaders into extraordinary change agents to effective positive civic transformation. The Vision of Leadership Montgomery is to create a city of effective, compassionate, and unified community trustees built upon relationships characterized by respect, trust, and understanding among leaders who represent the diverse segments of Montgomery, Alabama. The mantra is “Connecting Leaders to Effect Change.” For more information visit, or call (334)262-2261.

Best Gurl, Inc. is a unique, multi-platform company committed to communication.  Included in our portfolio are dynamic keynote speakers and published books inform and uplift the human spirit. For more information visit

All rights reserved, Gumptown Magazine. Copyright 2017.