Two CLA alums receive Lifetime Achievement Award

The Auburn Alumni Association recognized four recipients with its highest honor, the Lifetime Achievement Award, on March 2, at The Hotel at Auburn University and Dixon Conference Center. Two of the four awardees are College of Liberal Arts alums, they are: 

  •     Neil Owen Davis ’35, a newspaper publisher and editor who rose to prominence during the Civil Rights era for his stands on desegregation, public education and poverty relief.
  •     Thom Gossom ’75, an actor, writer, speaker and communications consultant who helped desegregate Auburn football and later became the first African-American athlete to graduate from Auburn University.

Photo of Neil Davis

Neil Owen Davis (pictured above) was a longtime newspaper editor in Auburn and Opelika, known for his editorials advocating desegregation, increased support for public education and policies that helped the poor.

After earning a bachelor’s degree in science and literature, Davis founded The Lee County Bulletin (later The Auburn Bulletin) in 1937 at the age of 22, where he remained editor and publisher until he sold the paper in 1975. He also owned The Tuskegee News in 1964-1975 and was its editor and publisher. His newspapers won numerous state and national awards, including three on the national level for best editorials. In the late 1970s, Davis was an adjunct professor of journalism at Auburn University.

Davis was a founding member of the local Presbyterian Community Ministry, which supports low-income housing, and a member of President Lyndon Johnson’s National Advisory Commission on Rural Poverty. He is a member of the Alabama Newspaper Hall of Honor and the University of Alabama Communication Hall of Fame. Davis remained an Auburn resident until his death in 2000.

Photo of Thom Gossom

Thom Gossom (pictured above) played wide receiver for the Auburn Tigers and earned a bachelor’s degree in speech communication. Gossom began a lengthy acting career in film and television, appearing in movies such as “Fight Club” and “Jeepers Creepers 2,” as well as such television programs as “The Quad,” “Love Is…,” “C.S.I.,” “Boston Legal,” “Jack and Bobby,” and “In the Heat of the Night.”

In 2008, Gossom published a memoir, Walk-On: My Reluctant Journey to Integration at Auburn University, and a collection of shorts stories called Slice of Life in 2015. He also appeared in the HBO special, “Breaking the Huddle” about the integration of southern college football. 

Gossom and his wife, Joyce, are owners of Best Gurl, Inc., a multi-platform company committed to all forms of effective communication. In the past, Gossom has served as the chair of the Auburn University Foundation Board and currently serves as a director on the Auburn Research and Technology Foundation.

Last Updated: March 28, 2019