TALLADEGA -- The Rev. Cromwell A. Handy served as keynote speaker Wednesday during Talladega College’s “Opening Convocation,” which celebrated Black History Month.

Handy is pastor of the historic Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church in Montgomery, where Dr. Martin Luther King also ministered.

Talladega College faculty, staff, alumni, city leaders and members of the community attended Wednesday’s ceremony, but Handy spoke directly to the college students.

“I want to offer a few words of encouragement,” Handy said. “I encourage you all to never fail, excel. I have never failed at anything that God has called me to do. I challenge you all to never fail. You must move past your setbacks and never quit.”

Handy advised students to find someone they can count on.

“Not everyone wants you to succeed,” he said. “Everyone needs someone they can depend on, and I recommend Jesus. He will never forsake you.

“Understand that you are royalty. Red, brown, yellow, black and white -- we are all precious in his sight.”

Handy also encouraged students to be the best at being themselves and expressed to students the importance of knowing one’s history.

“Allow the Lord to use you,” he said. “No one can beat you at being you.

“Our history begins at the beginning of civilization, and we are all offsprings of Abraham. Our accomplishments didn’t begin in America, and it shouldn’t be recognized as such. Success has always been in our DNA.”

Handy is a 1980 graduate of Alabama State University, where he received his bachelor’s degree in accounting. He attended Alabama State on a music scholarship and was a member of the symphonic band and the Mighty Marching Hornets.

Handy also attended the Jacksonville Center for Biblical Studies in Jacksonville, Florida. He once served as associate minister at Lincoln Heights Missionary Baptist Institutional Church in Jacksonville, Florida.

For 30 years, Handy was employed by the U.S. Department of Treasury, where he held several senior level management positions, including branch chief in the North Florida District.

Currently, Handy serves as director of alumni relations for Alabama State. He also serves as a board member of the Alabama State Foundation.

Additionally, the Montgomery native is president of the Montgomery Improvement Association and president of the  Dexter Avenue King Legacy Foundation Inc.

He is married to Cynthia J. Handy. Together they have two daughters, Candice Renee Handy and Casey Christina Handy Smith.

“I heard Rev. Handy speak at this year’s gubernatorial inauguration in Montgomery,” Talladega College President Dr. Billy C. Hawkins said. “Of all the clergy who prayed, I knew he was special. We are so glad for the message he gave Talladega College today.”