Reflections of Dallas Past: Clearing the racial trail at Arlington State College
As a first year, second semester student, I had transferred from Texas Southern University and enrolled at Arlington State College for the spring semester, January 1963.
The initial integration of ASC took place with students from my graduating class of James Madison High School. I knew all the freshman students from Madison who desegregated. There were also some students from Fort Worth schools in attendance.
The school’s White parents and students, as well as White citizens who opposed desegregation of the college staged protests at the college. I viewed my role as a second semester freshman student of having to finish clearing the rugged, bigoted, racial trail. I thought all of the heckling, screaming, racial slurs and penny tossing would be over by the second semester – but it continued. I quickly found out that the resentment, intimidation, threats and veiled hostile environment remained.
Still, Fred Finch, a prominent Black Dallas attorney had succeeded in opening the doors for enrollment, and we were prepared for the challenge.
As an art major, I found the teachers in my area to be more open for racial change than professors in other subjects. However, some students still had problems adjusting to integration.
I had a history teacher who made it clear that “Colored students” would have difficulties passing his class. Because of his statements, most Black students dropped his class, and others tried to avoid taking history from him.
I had a friend who enrolled in ASC a semester later, in the fall of 1963. He also experienced many challenges in his courses. He was an excellent musician who played tenor saxophone in the band and first-chair bass clarinet in the lab band. Yet, he received a grade of “D” because of the band director’s prejudice. He appealed the grades to no avail but refused to drop out of the band. He went on to obtain degrees and excelled in his career and life.
As Black students forging a trail, we knew we had to persevere despite the bigotry and racism of some of the professors. It wasn’t just the students and professors, the college carried reminders of the nation’s racist foundation. The confederate rebel flag and Johnny Reb-solider, ASC’s mascot, were offensive racial symbols that caused emotional pain for Black students.
The first organized protest to remove the rebel flag took place during the spring semester of 1964. However, the flag was not replaced until 1975.
When the first African Americans enrolled in the fall of 1962, ASC was part of the Texas A&M system. The transition took place years later and the college became part of the University of Texas system. The name changed to the University of Texas at Arlington – also known as UTA.
I changed my major and transferred several years later. I was blessed to earn a bachelor’s degree and two additional higher degrees. Most of the first and second semester students that attended ASC in 1962 from Madison graduated and have had successful careers as registered architects, artists, attorneys, city managers, professors, pastors and elected political officials.
I became a three-term elected mayor of Garland, and the first African American to fill the position.
I did not name the people I attended college with, but I’m open to discuss them, with their permission. Some are deceased. Some are current successful prominent professionals, and others would have to be located.
The late Scarlett Maxwel, MD, is credited as the first Black person to graduate from UTA as a senior transfer student from North Texas University – now University of North Texas or UNT.
It is quite interesting to reflect on the courage we had as young people to take the bold steps and integrate ASC in the 1962/1963 school year. We were aware of the times, prepared for the challenge, did what was required and excelled in our pursuits.
SOURCE- Dallas Examiner
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