Comments from grads of other decades
Comments from staff, administrators, community members
History of integration
Making college home
A team united
Pride and tradition
Remembering the early days
After Joe Atkins' lawsuit opened North Texas to all students regardless of race, African American undergraduates and master's students began enrolling in 1956. Earlier this year, 10 students from the first classes commented on their experiences for The North Texan: from 1956 Floydell Barton Hall ('60), Lurline Bradley Jackson, Leon King ('62, '72 M.Ed.), Burlyce Sherrell Logan, Bettye Morgan ('60) and Hayward Sparks ('60); and from 1957 Loita Alexander Gibson, Herbie Johnson ('59, '64 M.Ed.), Mary Dunn Smith ('61, '67 M.Ed.) and Elaine Harvey Williams.
Sparks, who came to North Texas in Summer 1956, was the first freshman to enroll. King, with Abner Haynes ('62), integrated the football team. Hall, Jackson, Logan, Morgan and Williams were among the first allowed to live in residence halls, and Johnson was among the first to receive a North Texas degree.
Following are some of their comments about life at North Texas.
Mary Dunn Smith: I think what our parents had instilled in us in the community was that everybody knew you. If you walked down the street, everybody on that street knew you. Growing up, you had high self-esteem to start with, because everybody believed that you could do anything. They watched you grow up, they complimented you, you showed your report card and things like that. And when you went off to college, nothing less was expected. I grew up in west Dallas, across from the projects, and everybody on that street knew me and they spoke to me. I didn't know I lived in the ghetto until I went to college, because it wasn't the ghetto to me.
Herbie Johnson: We had excellent teachers when I attended Lincoln High School in Dallas, a tradition of excellence. Most of our professors had gotten their degrees from colleges north of the Mason-Dixon line, so that prepared us academically, and my experience in the Army prepared me emotionally … to kind of shed the indifferences and cold feelings that were present on campus at that time. I didn't let it bother me because I knew what my goal was, and that was to get an education.
Bettye Morgan: I don't think we really went there looking for the prejudices of other people. First of all, my background was somewhat different because my mother had white friends that far back and my father did too. So the only experience that I would say was a little different was going to school together.
Burlyce Sherrell Logan: I started elementary school in New York. My dad was in the service. I had experience going to school with whites in New York for four years. … So it was no big deal that I was going to a white college.
Choosing North Texas
Elaine Harvey Williams: When I graduated from high school, my parents wanted me to attend Texas Southern University in Houston. My older brother said, "No, she doesn't need to go there — that's a big city. Let's bring her closer to home." So my mom and dad said, "Let's see if she can get in at North Texas." Well, lo and behold, I did. This was in September 1957.
Bettye Morgan: I had read about that music school. Plus I had made application to SMU and they said they had no provisions for blacks there. So then I decided I would try North Texas since I heard they had a real good music department.
Herbie Johnson: When I got out of the Army I knew I was going back to college, and I picked up the sports section and there was a picture of Abner running the ball. I looked down and said, "Abner Haynes at North Texas? I didn't know they had integrated that school up there." And I closed the paper immediately and went up to Denton to enroll.
Arriving on campus
Leon King: I had a great experience at North Texas. I guess I was up on campus a few days before everyone else came up due to the fact that I played football. And when I first reached the campus, I was greeted by several members of the team. One person who sticks out among everybody else was a local Denton boy named Garland Warren. Garland came and introduced himself, shook hands and welcomed me to the campus as well as to the team. … I think my experience being an athlete might have been a little bit different from those who did not participate in athletics, being pretty well known.
Hayward Sparks: I was a bit older than the average student. I think I was about 30 and the rest of them were pretty young. There were no other blacks in [the business school] at that time. I was commuting to North Texas every day. I saw blacks, not many. I remember going into the library for registration and there was all this mass of folks running all over. And I had no idea what to do. I stood around probably an hour before someone came over and asked me if I was a freshman. And I said yes. And they stood with me through a couple of registrations.
Floydell Barton Hall: The first day that we were in the auditorium I felt a little funny. But after that I did not have an inferiority complex as far as my subjects were concerned. I felt like I could do just as well as anyone else. I guess that was in my mind all of my life.
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