Jackson State University visiting professor Sylvester Murray recently received national recognition for his long career of mentoring students who later became public administrators across the country. Murray was presented the 2014 Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action Exemplary Practice Award by the American Society for Public Administration during the organization’s annual conference.
The award is the latest in a long list of achievements for Murray, who was one of the first black public administrators in the U.S. He earned his master’s degree in state and local government administration from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania in 1965. He was called up to serve in the Vietnam War, and after his return was appointed city manager in Inkster, Mich., in 1968. He and the city manager of Compton, Calif., were the only black city managers in the country and they were appointed within a month of each other. Murray’s 20-year career took him to Ann Arbor, Mich., Cincinnati and San Diego. During his career, Murray was selected as president of the International City Managers Association, representing all city managers in the U.S., Canada and Great Britain. He was the first African American to hold the position.
When he decided to change his career, he chose academia. He was asked to become a professor of public administration at Cleveland University. He was also named president of the American Society for Public Administration, making him the first person to serve in both the practitioners’ trade association and the group devoted to academia.