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
Remembering the early days: 1, 2, 3, 4
Lurline Bradley Jackson: I had a real nice instructor and he used to come and get me on Sunday evenings. … I was taking psychology and he was my instructor. He was trying to get me involved with his classes. Anyway, he had two children. He would come to get me early Sunday evening, and I would go over to their house and his wife would fix dinner for me. And the next day I would go to class and he always wanted me to tell about being black. He was real nice to me, but his wife didn't welcome me, so I began to tell him that I wouldn't go back over to his house anymore. She was just too unhappy. And I wasn't happy with being with her anyway.
Leon King: There were some professors who had a problem pronouncing the word "Negro." They would say "the Nigras." Sometimes you would get upset, but what could you do? We have been called names all of our lives. … Dr. Matthews did an excellent job preparing the faculty for integration. Dr. [Gladys] Crawford in science and Ms. [Olna] Boaz in English helped me more than anyone in making the adjustment to college life.
Elaine Harvey Williams: Some of the faculty members would show their prejudice, and we just overlooked it and did what we had to do. And we did have to keep our grades up. Anybody has to do that, but it seemed like we had to do it even more so. Because we knew what we were there for — we didn't want to make it bad for ourselves or for other black students who came later.
Bettye Morgan: I was a music education major with a concentration in piano and voice. It was a little different in the music department because they were somewhat close-knit and even those that would flunk you still wanted to be close to you. … I had several professors who took us under their wing. Paul Krueger was just outstanding.
Loita Alexander Gibson: We all had one instructor that stands out in your mind. Mine — God rest his soul — it was my English instructor. He would always pull me aside if I was having problems. I was the only black in his class. I was surprised at the end of the semester when you had to write that first term paper, and we didn't know a hill of beans about writing a term paper. … He was my backbone. If I needed help, I could go to his office and he would help. … I admire him to this day.
Hayward Sparks: In English I had the same experience other freshmen had. I had serious problems writing and there was plenty of it to do. I don't have a kind memory of the person who taught me English.
Herbie Johnson: Although my hide was very tough having been in the Army, the one incident that I remember … was in my senior year in political science. There was one other black student in that class. She and I were the first two to graduate in '59. The professor stated that in order to really learn Texas politics, it was good to rub elbows with actual politicians. He was going to have several state representatives and senators at his home for a barbecue a couple of weeks from then. So he passed around a sheet and said, "I want to know how many people in my class want to attend this barbecue." When the paper came by I signed it.
A couple of days later, he saw me in the UB with my major professor, and they came up and said, "Herb, will you have a cup of coffee?" And I said, "My goodness, why would these guys want to have a cup of coffee with me?"
But he said, "Now, Herb, you know that I'm liberal and I tell it as it is in the political arena." I said, "Yes." He said, "I noticed that you signed that sheet that you want to attend the party." I said, "Yes."
He said, "Well now, you know those people up there" — and he pointed to the tower of the administration building. "Those people up there aren't for social integration. But you can come, because" — and he named the black girl — "will be helping my wife prepare the food. So you can come and help them, and you'll be there. You'll hear everything that's going on. And an old professor won't be responsible for social integration."
At the time my wife, Jessalyn ('59), and I had hooked up and I was a serious young man and wanted to get my degree and get a job, so I politely declined. But I have never forgotten that incident in all these years. I don't think about it constantly — only when I'm in sessions when I'm asked to bring up stuff like this.
Elaine Harvey Williams: On campus we didn't have any problems. I mean people looked at us, just to say, you know, "Well here's some new black faces." We were still kind of segregated, so we would have our social functions in Shack Town on Friday nights. There wasn't any place on campus for us to socialize and come together as a group, but we did use the Union Building.
Hayward Sparks: The Student Union Building — it was pretty tough. Sometimes you would be in line and the person serving wouldn't recognize you and just looked at you and went on to the next person. I didn't enjoy North Texas. The climate was tougher than I expected.
Leon King: I must admit I have no regrets. But there were times that I was a little bit jealous, because my boys attended Prairie View. They were down there two years together, and there were times when some of their buddies would come over to the house and they would get in there and get to talking about the things that they did on campus. They would mock [the coach] and some of the things he said. And I said, "My goodness, I missed all of that." We didn't have that. … The only time I ever went to the campus after dark was to go to the science lab or the library to study. I have no idea what campus life after dark was like.
Herbie Johnson: I had attended Texas Southern for two years and had the black experience on an all-black campus, got to ride in the Homecoming parade and all that kind of stuff. So by the time I got to North Texas, I wasn't interested in all that.
The segregated community
Mary Dunn Smith: You must remember that Denton at that time was very small. The only thing they had was the square. I can remember the big store that was there on the square, Russell's. And you couldn't go in Russell's and just buy.
Leon King: I guess Russell's and the movie theater were about the only places in the little town that we could not go. … Piggly Wiggly accepted us. We bought most of our groceries from Piggly Wiggly and Brookshire's because the little store we had in the community didn't have that much.
Bettye Morgan: If we went out to eat with another black, they wouldn't serve us. But if you went in there with white kids, they would do it. They wouldn't say anything. You could go in there and buy something, but they didn't want you sitting around.
Next page: What they learned
1, 2, 3, 4