Published on April 12, 2024 by Diamond Nunnally  
TJ Riggs headshot
TJ Riggs headshot

Samford University's Howard College of Arts and Sciences junior TJ Riggs, a law, politics and society major, has been named a 2024 Truman Scholar by the Harry S. Truman Scholarship Foundation. Riggs is the first Samford student to receive this prestigious national scholarship since 2002.  

"This is only the fifth time a Samford student has won this particular scholarship, so it's a big day for Samford but particularly a big day for TJ Riggs," said Samford President Beck Taylor before surprising him with the announcement in his class on Wednesday, April 10.  

"I was shocked and overwhelmed to have found out I received the Truman Scholarship," Riggs said. "All of the other finalists competing out of Alabama were incredibly intelligent, down-to-earth and impressive people, and it is truly an honor to be selected as a scholar among such an incredible group of candidates." 

The Truman Scholarship is the premier graduate scholarship for aspiring public service leaders in the United States. Riggs is one of only 60 exceptional students to be awarded this competitive scholarship. There were 709 candidates from 285 colleges and universities considered for this award.  

"The process for the Truman Scholarship was a long one," Riggs said. "It started with the institutional nomination process, where 11 students, including myself, from Samford were identified as potential nominees. We wrote personal statements about our work in public service. From there, four students completed an institutional interview, where the Samford Truman selection panel chose me to be the official Samford candidate.” 

According to the foundation's website, the Harry S. Truman Scholarship is awarded to students who "demonstrate outstanding leadership potential and commitment to a career in government or the nonprofit sector and academic excellence." 

Riggs' accomplishments and dedication at Samford not only met but exceeded the rigorous standards set forth by the foundation’s board of trustees. He has served as the president of Samford's Chapter of Amnesty International, later assuming the role of Alabama state death penalty abolition coordinator for the national chapter. He has been a Samford Student Government Judiciary Council member for two years, played an active role on the Samford Gives Back leadership team, a debater for Samford's Varsity Policy Debate Team, and will assume the presidency for the Samford College Democrats for the 2024-25 academic year.  

"I am passionate about public service as I believe it to be the chief duty of anyone pursuing education in politics and activism. Specifically, I believe that the death penalty poses a critical threat to the legitimate functioning of our state government, and I think it is of utmost importance for those with the power to advocate and use that skill where it matters." 

As a Truman Scholar, Riggs will receive funding for graduate studies, leadership training, career counseling, and internship and fellowship opportunities within the federal government. 

"Being chosen as a Truman Scholar is truly life-changing," Riggs said. "Throughout the process, the foundation emphasized the doors this scholarship would open, and I am incredibly grateful and excited to see what it will hold for me." 

Riggs plans to attend law school after graduating from Samford and plans to use his degrees to represent and advocate for death row inmates in Alabama. 

Samford is a leading Christian university offering undergraduate programs grounded in the liberal arts with an array of nationally recognized graduate and professional schools. Founded in 1841, Samford is the 87th-oldest institution of higher learning in the United States. Samford enrolls 5,791 students from 49 states, Puerto Rico and 16 countries in its 10 academic schools: arts, arts and sciences, business, divinity, education, health professions, law, nursing, pharmacy and public health. Samford fields 17 athletic teams that compete in the tradition-rich Southern Conference and ranks 6th nationally for its Graduation Success Rate among all NCAA Division I schools.