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Remembering the early days
Summer 2004      

story extras

Comments from grads of other decades

Comments from staff, administrators, community members

other features

History of integration

Opening doors

Transforming history

Making college home

Greek life

A team united

Pride and tradition

Remembering the early days


Comments from staff, administrators, community members

Dorothy Adkins, one of the founders of the Denton Women's Interracial Christian Fellowship in the '60s: We were just a group of women with children in school who wanted to get acquainted. Knowing that integration was coming in schools, we wanted to make it go smoothly. We started meeting in each other's homes, and then we worked in the public arena. We wanted all people to be served and have the same privileges in restaurants and stores. We set up tutoring for students. … One of the things I learned when we organized the group was how many prejudicial attitudes were a part of our society — so deeply engrained that we didn't realize they were prejudiced. It was not until we had these personal experiences with people of another race that we learned that some simple things we'd done all our life were prejudiced and biased. But it was so much a part of the society as a whole that it was an eye-opening experience for us.

I had grown up in a completely segregated society so I really didn't understand these things. It was this coming together and getting to know people that opened our eyes. I'm sure a lot of that went on on the campus. I'm sure there were professors and fellow students who said hurtful things to other people, who didn't even realize they were hurtful because the prejudice was so engrained in the social norms. I think that's still true today. The overt prejudice is not there so much, but a lot of the feelings that are still a part of our society are hurtful to other people without our knowing it, and it's not just a black/white issue. It's an issue in any kind of relationship.

Harve King, associate dean of students, 1969-1986: When I came to North Texas, I was interviewed on 38 radio stations and they played it up in the papers to say "black dean hired at North Texas." They tried to make it a racial issue; they really tried. So they asked me, "Now we understand that they had to hire you at the University of North Texas because they had to have a black administrator." That's what they were saying. I said, "Hell, no. I don't know why they hired me, but I'll tell you why I took the job. I took the job because I was qualified." The press and people back then tried to make things worse than they really were. You take me, and a lot of things happened. I don't even want to talk about them, and I hate the words "the first." That puts a lot of pressure on us. You would be surprised at the pressure that was on me being "the first." But I think the community and those who are racist tried to instigate things to add to it.

Alton Thibodeaux, assistant director of financial aid and founding director of equal opportunity, 1972-1992: Progress has been made at the university. Progress is slow, but if you look where we came from and where we are now, I would say we made a lot of progress. Being a person who came from another institution, I will tell you that UNT was not half bad. …

There was some good leadership at the beginning. I remember when I first came to UNT in '72, I met this very distinguished-looking man on campus. I was here about a week or two. And he turned out to be the former president of North Texas, J.C. Matthews. And he invited me to his office located on the third floor of the Administration Building.

I asked him why he was so successful in promoting integration without a big fanfare on this campus. He told me that he kept everything under control. One of the first things he did was to call in the staff and faculty and say, "Next semester we're going to have some black kids on campus. I want you to treat them like you treat everybody else." And he kept the news media away from campus.

The reason I was impressed with that was I was involved with the same kind of stuff at another university. We did just the opposite. We hand picked faculty members for the student who had integrated the university. We did it all wrong. And apparently he did it all right. I was very impressed by that old man.

Jean Washington, registered nurse and nursing supervisor at the Student Health Center, 1973-1997: Students would talk about how they were treated by different professors. My advice was that you can make a difference no matter who's in charge. You can take away a lot of things, but you can't take away a mind, so whatever you learn you should maintain regardless of who is teaching you. … It's not an easy thing. … You've got to just say, "Look, this professor is really hard." Try to learn all you can. Even if he fails you, then you get out of that class and you go on and continue. Don't let it stop you.

Some kids give up. Some kids cannot face failure. If you've been in school and making A's all your life and all of a sudden you get a grade that's not, that's traumatic to some. But you have to tell them there's another day. You go on. Don't give up. You never give up.

Lynette Kimble ('89), who's worked at the university since 1985, currently as administrative services officer in the Division of Equity and Diversity: My experience here at UNT has been positive, and I've had the pleasure of working with students and prospective students with the admissions and recruitment areas of the university. I have had some students, particularly African American students, ask me what the experience was like attending UNT. I think a lot of it probably has to do with the size of the university and maybe what the expectations are here. But, after I talk to them about my experience being a positive one, knowing that you can get through four years of college here no matter what color you are or what perception you may have about UNT, I think it's helped to ease a lot of people's fears about the college experience. … The only way to conquer fear is to face it head on. You face the challenges that you are dealt, and only then are you successful.


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