Back in 2001, Art Collins defied Gov. Jeb Bush by winning the first FAMU trustees chairmanship race despite being pressured to let R.B. Holmes have the position. Collins seemed to think his election victory meant it would be easy for him to build enough support to seat a highly-qualified successor to President Frederick S. Humphries. But he underestimated R.B.’s desire for revenge.
On the night before the final vote in the selection process, the majority of trustees still supported Collins. There were more than enough votes for Charlie Nelms, the only candidate who had been the top executive of two universities, to become the ninth president of FAMU. Nelms had served as chancellor of Indiana University East and the University of Michigan at Flint before being selected to serve as vice-president for student development and diversity for the entire Indiana University system.
But the 11th hour shadiness that is still typical of FAMU Board of Trustees processes turned the presidential search into a train wreck. A lie that claimed there weren’t enough votes to seat Nelms was spread throughout that evening. By the end of the shenanigans on that night, Nelms had withdrawn his application.
When the board met for the presidential vote the next morning, the anti-Collins trustees smiled and laughed when the chairman had to announce that Nelms was out-of-the-running. A group of trustees that included R.B., Castell Bryant, and Jim Corbin then worked to fast track the selection of Fred Gainous to run FAMU.