January 20, 2014

Integration with Dignity

Today is a special day to remember the impact Martin Luther King, Jr. had on our country, but it's also a day to reflect on other important men and women in history who had an impact on the civil rights movement.

Harvey Gantt is a Charleston native who was the first African American student to enroll at Clemson University in January of 1963. He received a Bachelor of Architecture degree from Clemson, with honors, in 1965. He went on to receive his Masters in City Planning from M.I.T. and became the first African American mayor of Charlotte, N.C.

In the Fall of 1964, Harvey married Lucinda - who was the second African American student to enroll at Clemson University.

Integration at Clemson was no easy task for Harvey. He applied to Clemson several times, never taking 'no' for an answer. Eventually it took a lawsuit led by a young civil rights lawyer, Matthew Perry of Columbia, who was already instrumental in achieving many successes for African Americans. Perry tried cases that led to the integration of beaches, parks, restaurants, and public schools, and his trial work led to the release of some 7,000 people arrested for sit-in protests. Harvey Gantt first met Matthew Perry when Perry gave a speech at Gantt's church in 1958.

Meanwhile in Mississippi in 1962, a federal court ordered the University of Mississippi to accept James Meredith, a 28 yr. old Air Force veteran, as the school's first African American student. The Mississippi Governor at the time vowed to stop it and was supported by hundreds of state policemen, sheriffs, residents and students. To protect Meredith, U.S. Attorney General Robert Kennedy sent 123 deputy federal marshals, 316 U.S. border guards and 97 federal prison guards. There was great violence - two people were killed, 28 marshals were shot and 160 people were injured.

The violence in Mississippi had a great impact on Clemson University administration, students and supporters. Those who opposed integration were more strongly opposed to violence because of it.

On January 22, 1963, in compliance with the ruling of the Court of Appeals of the Fourth Circuit Court, Judge Wyche issued the order that Harvey Gantt be admitted to Clemson College.

"I feel that I have the confidence of the student body in saying that the students at Clemson will react with the traditional maturity of Clemson men and that there will be no violence connected with the admittance of Harvey Gantt." -Clemson student body president Bill Hendrix, January 17, 1963

On January 28, 1963, Harvey Gantt left Charleston early in the morning and arrived at Clemson with his attorney, Matthew Perry. He first went to Tillman Hall where he enrolled in the Registrar's Office and then spoke outside to the gathered media. Next Gantt went to the School of Architecture (Lee Hall) where he met with Dean Harlan McClure. He met briefly with President Edwards and then went to his room, Room 502 in Dormitory B (Johnstone Hall). He wasn't assigned a roommate.

Harvey Gantt attended orientation sessions on January 29, signed up for classes on January 30 and then had a day off before classes began on February 1.

Harvey Gantt was selected for the Minarets, Clemson's local architectural honor society and for Tau Sigma Delta, the national architectural honor society. He graduated from Clemson in 1965. The University of South Carolina admitted its first black students in the Fall of 1963. By 1965, all of South Carolina's public colleges and twelve of twenty-five private colleges were admitting qualified students without regard to race.

Harvey Gantt has continued to guest lecture at Clemson over the years. In 1988 the University launched the Harvey B. Gantt Scholarship Endowment to fund scholarships for black students at Clemson. And in 2000, the multicultural affairs office suite in the Hendrix Student Center was named for Harvey and Lucinda Gantt.

You can read more about Harvey Gantt at the following sites...


Unknown said...

Proud of this moment that helped me become a Clemson Girl!

PinkGPerfection said...

I love this! Ever Loyal!

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