[ Home ]  

The Heartland News Article

2011 June-July Page 8 Article 1

An Interview with a Doctor

(A Close Encounter of the Smart Kind)
By M,A,Yah
THe Heartland News Writer

Friday, June 3, 2011 appeared to be just like any other Friday in the great city of Omaha until Delta's flight DL54621 touched down from Memphis, and Dr. Abdulalim Shabazz, the legendary mathematics professor from Grambling University, stepped off the plane.

The eighty-four-year-old professor was originally in town to judge the Wildemar Chess Tournament [ RCTO.us/wcto.htm ] sponsored by Rich Hudlin, on Sunday, June 5, downtown at the House of Lee. However, the Doctor's three- day stay left a lifetime impression on all that heard him speak within a six-feet ratio, every time he uttered a single word. His life is no doubt a legacy that will someday be written in history books for the whole wide world to read.

Born Lonnie Cross, on May 22, 1927 in Bessemer, Alabama, at the age 14 he moved to Washington D.C., where he attended Durmar High School. Partially raised by his grandmother in a one-bedroon shack, he had no choice but to bunk down at night on a flimsy cot. Unfortunately, the Doctor's grandmother didn't support his education. "My grandmother was set in her ways," the soft-spoken doctor replied in a strong voice. "She believed that a government job was more than satisfactory for a colored man. So she felt that I was wasting my time seeking an education." Fed up with the negativity, and his grandmother constantly turning the lights off while he was trying to study, he left home at age 16 to never return. He ventured into the world on his own. And from that point on, he traveled on the road of success, leaving a trail of history behind.

In three years, Dr. Shabazz earned a B.A. in Math and Chemistry from Lincoln University in 1949. Two years later, he earned a M.S. in Mathematics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. And from 1952-53, he was an Assistant Mathematician with Cornell Aeronautical Labratory, earning a PhD in Mathematics from Cornell University by 1955.

Shabazz was also a Research Mathematician with the Metals Research Labratory of the Electro Metallurgical Co. in 1955, followed by the appointment of Asisstant Professor of Mathematics by Tuskegee Institute the following year in 1956.

From 1957 to 1963, he served as Chairman and Associate Professor of Mathematicians at Atlanta University (now Clark Atlanta). However, in between that time, he became a Muslim in 1961, by joining the Nation of Islam under the teachings of The Honorable Elijah Muhammad, who appointed Shabazz Director of Education for University of Islam at Temple #4 in washington, DC in 1963, a position he held until 1975.

Later Dr. Shabazz transferred to the Muslim Temple in Detroit for three and half years under the teachings of W.D. Muhammad. The Doctor personally knew Elijah Muhammad' W.D. Muhammad and Malcolm X. And today, he is good friends with both Muhammad Ali and The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan.

From 1975 until 1986, Dr. Shabazz taught in Chicago, Detroit, and in Mecca, Saudi Arabia. In 1986, he returned to Clark Atlanta University. And in 1992, during the time he served as Chair from 1990 to 1995, he was presented the "Mentor Award" for his leadership by the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Dr. Shabazz was also a recipient of the QEM/MSE Giants in Science Award in 1995. And he went on to receive the National Association of Mathematicians Distinguished Service Award for his years of mentoring and teaching.

From 1998 until 2000 he was Chairman of the Mathematics Department at Lincoln University. And in September 2000, President Clinton awarded the doctor with a National Mentor award. That following year, the Association of African American Educators awarded him with its Lifetime Achievement Award for his outstanding work with African Americans in mathematics.

"My teachers were a big influence in my life. In school I had all black instructors. In fact, my history teacher was Mr. Halley Douglas, the grandson of Fredrick Douglas," Shabazz said, when asked about what motivated him to seek the highest degree in education. "So at an early age, I developed the instinct to obtain the highest or the best in anything I set out to accomplish throughout life. And once I heard about a degree called a PhD, I had to get one... it wasn't an option.

Today, Dr. Shabazz is a professor at Grambling State University in Ruston, L.A. He speaks French, German and Arabic. Currently, he is working on the publications of three books simultaneously.

However, out of all of his accomplishments, awards and books, Dr. Abdulalim Shabazz is equally recognized for being credited with training directly and indirectly nearly half of the African Americans who earned doctorate degrees in mathematics in the United States. And he will always be remembered in Omaha as the doctor who gave the antidote for a lifetime of success... in just three days.