September 29, 2023

Know Your History: Dr. Thomas Freeman

A distinguished professor emeritus who gave more than 70 years of service, Dr. Thomas Freeman is an iconic coach who led the University’s award-winning Debate Team to scores of regional, national and international competitions. He also instructed legendary national and global figures as Representative Barbara Jordan and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

A former professor of psychology and philosophy at TSU, Freeman taught at Morehouse College, Virginia Union University, Houston Community College and Rice University.  In 1947, while a visiting professor at Morehouse, he taught one of the world’s greatest orators and most inspiring leaders, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

A college graduate by age 18 and a Virginia Union University professor in his 20s, Freeman was among the Black intellectuals hired in 1949 to teach at what was then Texas State University for Negroes. That year, he staged a debate in his logic class drawing from his own undergraduate experiences. Students asked him to coach a debate team that soon found success at out-of-town tournaments.

Freeman is perhaps best-known for founding and coaching TSU’s highly acclaimed debate team, which has won hundreds of awards, traveled the globe and, helped desegregate college forensics.

For Freeman, educating young people is as much a calling as one that led him into the ministry. He was also the church pastor at Mt. Horem Baptist Church in Houston’s Fifth Ward, for 60 years.

In 2009, Texas Southern named its newest academic unit the Thomas F. Freeman Honors College and Dr. Freeman is its founding dean. He was also TSU’s Distinguished Director of Forensics. Dr. Freeman died in June of 2020.


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