Harvard Law Professor Charles Ogletree Calls His Alzheimer’s Diagnosis a ‘Blessing’

Angela Bronner Helm
Harvard Law Professor Charles Ogletree speaks at the 2015 Brotherhood/Sister Sol’s Voices Benefit on May 14, 2015, in New York City.
Johnny Nunez/WireImage

Charles Ogletree, author, activist and Harvard law professor, who taught both Barack and Michelle Obama, revealed that he has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease but that it has been a “blessing.”

Ogletree, 63, who said he was diagnosed by a neurologist, shared the news at a bicentennial message at the 50th quadrennial General Conference of the African Methodist Episcopal Church in Philadelphia on Tuesday.


Religion News reports that Ogletree is standing in his faith in light of his diagnosis.

“I’ve made up my mind to be thankful for what I have rather than focus on what I may lose,” Ogletree said at a banquet of over 3,000. “Nothing but the grace of God and faith enables me to respond this way.

“It was something I had not anticipated, and I didn’t know how to respond to it,” he continues. “I never imagined that things like my health would slow me down in such a dramatic way. It was, I must admit, a blessing.”

Ogletree joins another prominent African American, model and restaurateur Barbara “B. Smith” Smith, in coming forward to talk about his struggle with the neurological brain disease. More than 5 million people in the U.S. have Alzheimer’s, and that number is increasing, Ogletree noted.


“Studies show that African Americans are almost twice as likely as whites to develop the disease,” he said. “But, praise God, I made up my mind to be grateful despite the illness.”

According to the Alzheimer’s Assocation, outside of genetic risk, African Americans are at higher risk of Alzheimer’s because of high blood pressure, high blood sugar, cholesterol and body weight, which affect the heart and brain.


Ogletree is a steadfast “race man” and a brilliant legal scholar, theorist and activist. He is the founder of Harvard Law School’s Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice; represented Anita Hill during the Clarence Thomas hearings; and has written nearly a dozen books about race and justice.

According to his Harvard bio, Professor Ogletree has been married to Pamela Barnes since 1975. They are the proud parents of two children and five grandchildren and are members of the St. Paul African Methodist Episcopal Church in Cambridge, Mass.


We wish him the best of health and continued faith!

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