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Lincoln University

graduate is portrayed by Denzel Washington in a drama due to hit movie theaters on Christmas.

The Great Debaters

tells the story of Melvin Tolson, a professor and coach of the debate team at Wiley College in Texas. In 1935, Tolson led the debate team at the historically black college to win over the University of Southern California, the reigning national champion. (In the movie the victory is over Harvard.)

Tolson, born in 1898 in Moberly, Mo., graduated with honors from Lincoln in 1924. He promptly moved to Marshall in northeast Texas, near the Louisiana border, to teach speech and English at Wiley. In addition to leading Wiley's debate team to its noteworthy win over USC, Tolson was a well-known poet and columnist. He received honorary degrees from Lincoln in 1954 and 1965, and died in 1966.

For more information on the movie, visit

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- Will Hobson