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Bertha Rogers Looney Legacy Scholarship

Click on the button below to add your name to the invite list for the

Bertha Rogers Looney Legacy Scholarship Benefit.



Bertha Rogers Looney is the sixth child of the late Bennie and Bessie Lackland Rogers. From her early education in a one-room school in rural Shelby County, Bertha completed her middle and high school years in the legacy Memphis City Schools. A 1959 honor graduate of Hamilton High School, she enrolled in the then Memphis State University in September 1959.  Mrs. Looney and the seven other African Americans who desegregated Memphis State University (now the University of Memphis) in 1959 became known as the Memphis State Eight.


Mrs. Looney completed both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Memphis State University.  Additionally, she attended Coppin State University in Baltimore, Maryland, and the Catholic University in Washington, D. C.  Believing that education should not be stagnant, Bertha completed advanced graduate work at the University of Maryland in College Park.


A former high school business education teacher and a retired professor in English from Southwest Tennessee Community College, Mrs. Looney’s teaching career spanned 50+ years. In addition to her teaching career, Bertha worked for Maryland Civil Defense in Baltimore, Maryland.  Furthermore, she has served as a presenter/participant in numerous religious, educational, civic, and business seminars and forums.  A staunch advocate of the educational process, Mrs. Looney volunteers regularly as a tutor in various grade levels.  Internationally, she taught English as a Second Language at the University of Pilsen in the Czech Republic.


She is a member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the Better Love Yourself organization. Her publications include her family history, Our Heritage Has Seeded our Future and a stylistic book of poems, Homecoming Portraits. Her memoir, Dare to Be First, is scheduled to be released by summer 2024.


In 2006, the Memphis State Eight received “high honors” in a special ceremony and banquet during the University’s history conference.  In 2009, the Memphis State Eight were recipients of the Arthur S. Holmon Lifetime Achievement Award presented by the Black Student Association at the University of Memphis.  Additionally, for the University’s Centennial Celebration in 2012, the Center for Research on Women honored Mrs. Looney as one of the 100 most influential women in their 100 Years, 100 Women Observance.


Other awards for the Memphis State Eight include a historical marker on the University campus;   the 2014 Henry Logan Starks’ Legacy Award presented by Memphis Theological Seminary; 2014 Memphis Living Legends Award by New Sardis Baptist Church; and the 2017 “Be the Dream” Legacy Award by the City of Memphis and the Church of God in Christ, Inc.  In 2011, the Mid-South Kwanzaa designated the closing ceremony as the Memphis State Eight Day.  


An ardent member of Mississippi Boulevard Christian Church (MBCC), Mrs. Looney is a former Bible teacher (first and second grades) in DiscipleTown at MBCC.  Furthermore, she is a member of the Chosen Vessels (women’s ministry), BAGS (Being Accountable Giving Servant), Overcomers Bible Class, the Golden Friends, Hour of Power Prayer Ministry, and Home Pointe.


Bertha volunteers as the Bulletin Secretary at Old Nonconnah Missionary Baptist Church, her family church. Her great grandfather, Freeman Lawson, was one of the church founders in 1870.


Bertha’s only child, Adrian Earl, died November 1, 2012.  Her granddaughter, Meca Letra Hill Hollister, a recipient of the Maxine Atkins Smith Scholarship, is a 2017 graduate of the University of Memphis.  Meca and her husband Jeremy Hollister reside in Lafayette, Louisiana. A former Kindergarten teacher in the Memphis-Shelby County Schools system, Meca currently teaches Kindergarten in Lafayette.   Meca and Jeremy are parents of fourteen months old twins.


Bertha loves the Lord. Her most fervent prayer is:  “Search me, O God and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there me any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.  Psalm 139:23-24 ESV

Scholarship Criteria

The application period is closed.

Eligible applicants should:

  • be a minority, graduating senior from a public school (traditional or charter) in Memphis or Nashville.

  • plan to attend a 4 year institution

  • priority given to applicants planning to pursue a career in education

The Bertha Rogers Looney Legacy Scholarship was established in 2024.


Donors of the Bertha Rogers Looney Legacy Scholarship are recognized as Friends of BRL.


Donation levels:

Supporter: $0-$99

Affiliate: $100-$249

Ambassador: $250-$499

Champion: $500-$999

Legacy Builder: $1000 or more

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