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Morris Brown: Out of the Woods…Almost

By Hal Lamar and Titus Falodun | 12/20/2013, 6 a.m.
Thirty million dollars of debt is why Morris Brown College has been in federal bankruptcy court, facing the possibility of ...
Dr. Stanley Pritchett, President, Morris Brown College, addressing attendees.

The Morris Brown College bankruptcy hearing that was scheduled for Friday, December 20, 2013 has been rescheduled to January 30, 2014 at 1:30 p.m. General Counsel for Morris Brown College, Renardo Hicks, stated: "We still have some outstanding issues to resolve, and the parties-in-interest to this matter have agreed to this rescheduling to give us more time to resolve those matters. With the holidays approaching, this simply makes good sense."

ATLANTA – Thirty million dollars of debt is why Morris Brown College has been in federal bankruptcy court, facing the possibility of institutional extinction. But reviving the gritty, soulful spirit and activism of its founders, all hope has not been abandoned.

Led by the college’s board chair and a one-time member of the Atlanta School board, 6th district African Methodist Episcopal Church Bishop Preston Williams rallied hundreds of MBC alumni, hardcore supporters and friends in “A day of praise and Thanksgiving,” Saturday, December 14 at the college’s John H Lewis gymnasium.

The crowd, which sang rousing hymns of praise and heart-felt prayers, were also buoyed by news of the schools financial health.

“The African Methodist Episcopal Church Inc. has actually come forward and bought out the legal position of the school’s largest creditor,” said their lawyer Renardo Hicks.

“The church has actually written a check for $7 million and replaced the largest creditor in the Morris Brown bankruptcy.”

This money will assist in covering the outstanding back pay owed to Morris Brown faculty.

“They (the faculty) are [currently] getting paid,” a source close to the bankruptcy proceedings, explained to The Atlanta Voice.

“It’s just the matter of the back pay. [For example], they had gone four months without getting paid, and then they got paid 2 months consecutively. Those four months didn’t go away. In fact, those four months were added to the previous months that they had not been paid.”

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The Rt. Rev. Dr. Preston W. Williams II, Morris Brown College Board Chairman, addressing attendees.

After the Saturday service, ushers, many of whom were MBC grads, stood near the rear door of the gym to collect donations. Attendants were asked to donate a minimum of $100.

The money is a loan from the AME denomination, which will be repaid but under much more favorable terms, per school officials. The church’s initial line of credit insures that going forward faculty is paid. The selling of the property would mean they get their back pay.

A preliminary plan tentatively approved by a bankruptcy court on Friday, December 13, allows the 132-year-old school to sell off the Middleton Twin Towers dormitory (so named for one of the school’s former presidents), The Hickman Student Center, its post office, and adjacent parking lots to those properties.

To raise other funds, the school plans to work with private developers for other school properties, which they hope will generate enough money to pay off other creditors sitting on $34 million dollars in outstanding debt.

“The plan to redevelop Morris Brown will include potential ‘mixed-used’ properties, if you will,” the source said.

The “mix-used” facilities will have a commercial and academic collaboration among Pope & Land, Enterprises, Inc., (a commercial real estate developer), WH Solis, LLC, (a limited liability company), and Morris Brown. The aforementioned three collaborators will work together to redevelop and make fiscally viable the various school properties.