Greetings Alumni and Friends,
Every two years, we come together as ONE to reminisce about the good times and the learning experiences we gathered from our college years. As we gather on THE HILL, we must not forget those who have paved the way by fighting to create changes that have caused the University to evolve into the institution it is today.
The Black Alumni Society (BAS) of the University of Arkansas was founded on the premise of commemorating the African American student body, therefore this Black History Month we would like to acknowledge the accomplishments of a few men and women who are considered the first in their fields. Let’s begin with James McGahee. When the school was founded, originally known as Arkansas Industrial University, McGahee began the journey of becoming the first African American student amongst the 219 beneficiaries in 1872, to prepare for ministry of the Episcopal Church. Also, Mark W. Alexander and Isom Washington were included in the Beneficial even though no record of their enrollment has been discovered.
Continuing down this journey, Clifford Davis made it possible for African Americans to attend the U of A law school with his constant attempt of admission. That led to the enrollment of Silas Hubert Hunt in 1948 where he became the first Afro American to attend the University of Arkansas since the reconstruction and the first to be accepted for graduate or professional studies at any all white southern university. Hunt used his confidence and humble nature to handle the pressure and publicity associated with his trail-blazing achievements. Hunt has been recognized with the distinguished scholar award in his name that is given to deserving black students, a memorial day on February 2, which was his enrollment date, and was awarded a posthumous degree from the U of A School of law. Next, George Howard was the first black student admitted to campus housing in spring 1951. During his time in the dormitory, Howard was elected president making him the first African American representative to the University’s student government. After his college years, Howard became a U.S. District Judge, Eastern District of Arkansas. Now let’s mention Jackie Shropshire, who is known as the first African American graduate of the U of A law school. Following his studies, Shropshire worked to be an attorney in Indiana.
In the colleges of nursing and zoology; Maxine Sutton, Billie Roses Whitfield and Marjorie Wilkins were the first African Americans accepted for undergraduate. They also played in the marching band, however, they were not allowed to travel nor join the band away from campus.
While taking a trip down memory lane, we must not forget those who broke barriers as athletes. Beginning with Almer Lee, the first black men’s basketball letterman at the U of A in 1970. He was also the major offensive contributor and led the team in scoring for two consecutive seasons. For his accomplishments, Lee was inducted into the University sports Hall of Honor in 2011, the highest honor for any Razorback student athlete. Following, Darrell Brown was the pioneer for this campus football team. Being a running back, Brown considered it as another term for a tackling dummy. Lastly, E. Lynn Harris is remembered as the first African American male cheerleader and Razorback yearbook editor. Finishing his college experience, Harris chose to land the career of a writer. Dionne Harold was the first African American female cheerleader. Merike Manley was the first African American student elected Homecoming Queen in 1982.
As president of the BAS, I would like to thank you for continuing the legacy of those who paved the way in making it possible to have a future at the University of Arkansas. In addition, like President Obama’s first election slogan said, “Yes We Can”, make a difference if we put our mind and soul into every goal we would like to achieve, even if an obstacle may stand in our way. Therefore, thank you again for your accomplishments and contributions to make this society thrive.
We look forward to seeing each of you on April 17-19, 2015 in celebrating the 25th year of reunions for the Black Alumni Society. Come and help us Honor the Past while Building the Future.
John L Colbert
Class of ’76, ’81