Georgia native Robert Champion attended Florida A&M University (FAMU) where he joined the “Marching 100” band as a drum major. The marching band, which his mother stated was “his life,” ultimately cost him his life.
On the night of November 19th, the 26-year-old Atlanta resident was found on a bus parked outside an Orlando hotel after an away football game. Police reported that Champion had been vomiting and complained of difficulty breathing shortly before he collapsed. He was taken to a local hospital, where he was soon pronounced dead. Although no arrests have been made yet, FAMU officials believe that hazing was ultimately responsible for Robert Champion’s death.
In another hazing incident in 2001, a Marching 100 band member was paddled so hard in an initiation rite, he suffered kidney failure. The victim, Marcus W. Parker, was awarded $1.8 million in a civil lawsuit. Additional band hazing incidents in 1989 and the early 2000s resulted in a police investigation, but no charges were pressed.
Georgia Laws Against Hazing
According to the Georgia state law, “haze” means to subject a student to an activity which endangers or is likely to endanger the physical health of a student, regardless of a student’s willingness to participate in such activity. Furthermore, any person who violates this code section shall be guilty of a misdemeanor of a high and aggravated nature. In the state of Florida, where the incident happened, any death that occurs as the result of hazing is a third-degree felony.
Champion’s family is preparing to file a lawsuit against FAMU, and Julian White, the band director, has been fired. An attorney for Champion’s parents says he hopes this puts an end to FAMU’s hazing culture. Champion “died in foolishness,” the attorney stated, but “his legacy can be the end of hazing at FAMU.”
Wrongful death cases can be extremely difficult to understand, complex and challenging. If you have experienced a tragic death of a loved one, you may want to consider contacting our Wrongful Death Lawyers at Childers, Schlueter & Smith, LLC to see how we can help. All inquiries are kept strictly confidential and initial consultations are free.