Band director at FAMU retires
TALLAHASSEE - The longtime director of Florida A&M University's marching band announced his retirement Thursday, while a top state official urged the university to keep the band suspended while investigations of a drum major's death continue. Frank Brogan, the chancellor of Florida's state university system, wrote a blunt letter to FAMU President James Ammons urging him to keep the band suspended. Ammons is expected to discuss the band at a special meeting of the university board of trustees on Monday. Former state Sen. Al Lawson, a FAMU alumnus from Tallahassee, said he believed Ammons was leaning toward keeping the band suspended."There is a considerable amount of pressure being placed on the university and the trustees about the band being able to perform in the fall," Lawson said. "But I think in the light of everything, though, the university is going to have to go in a new direction." Lawson said long-time director Julian White's decision to retire instead of fighting to win his job back gives the university a chance to recruit new leadership for the band. Eleven FAMU band members face felony hazing charges stemming from Robert Champion's death in November. Two others face misdemeanor counts. Ammons suspended the band soon after Champion's death and tried to fire White. White's dismissal was placed on hold while the criminal investigation unfolded, but he insisted that he did nothing wrong and fought for months to get reinstated. Champion died aboard a bus outside an Orlando hotel following a FAMU football game. His death revealed a culture of hazing within the band. But according to information the university turned over to its board this week, three of those charged with Champion's death weren't FAMU students at the time. Ammons also sent a two-page letter to trustees explaining that at the start of the fall 2011 semester there were 457 people on the band roster, but it turns out 101 of them were not students at FAMU. A total of 52 people — including 51 band members and one cheerleader — previously had enrolled at the school but were not enrolled at the time of Champion's death. Another 49 were listed as students at nearby Tallahassee Community College or Florida State University but were not enrolled in a FAMU band class, nor did the university know for sure if they were enrolled at the other schools.