Undergraduate School Integration
Not Included in Board Decision
Chronicle Staff Writer
ABILENE, Tex.--Negroes will now be permitted to enroll in the Graduate School of Abilene Christian College if they are otherwise academically qualified, according to a decision adopted Monday, May 31 by the trustees of this Texas college.
The ACC action signifies the first breakthrough for integration of Negroes into the three major southern colleges operated by members of the Church of Christ. David Lipscomb College in Nashville, Tenn., and Harding College in Searcy, Ark., and Memphis, Tenn., have not opened their undergraduate or graduate doors to the Negro yet.
The other major senior college operated by members of the church--Pepperdine College in Los Angeles--already admits Negroes, as do one or two of the junior colleges of the brotherhood outside of the South.
Action of the ACC Board of Trustees on the controversial issue came after recommendation made by a study committee which was appointed by the board about two years.
ACC President Don H. Morris made this statement:
"The Study Committee recommended, and the board approved, that beginning with the fall semester, 1961, any applicant who meets the requirements to graduate school be admitted."
The requirements referred to are academic ones applied to all graduate school applicants such as the undergraduate degree and training in the student's major field, President Morris explained. Also, an applicant's good character is determined.
Chairman of the study committee which made the recommendation to the board is Dean of Students Garvin Beachamp[sic]. Two other faculty members and two board members served on the committee: Overton Faubus, of the business administration faculty; Frank Pack of the Bible department; and Hollis L. Manley and J. B. Collins, both Abilene businessmen.
The board's action did not relate to dormitory occupancy. Neither did it open the way to immediate undergraduate school integration, although the committee was authorized to continue with its study presumably to study in this direction.
Dean Fred Barton of the ACC Graduate School said that he has no current applications from Negroes for entrance into the graduate program. "I can't anticipate the number of Negro applicants," he said, "But we have had expressions of interest in the past from both teachers and preachers and we feel sure that when this announcement is made we will have some applications."
The ACC action seems signi-ficant because it comes only a little over a year since ACC Bible Professor Carl Spain denounced segregation in schools operated by members of the church, and his well-publicized statements came during the college-sponsored annual Bible lectureship in February, 1960, on this very campus.
Abilene Christian College now offers the master's degree in the fields of Bible biology[sic], business administration, chemistry, education, history, mathematics and speech.
A brief press release written by Reginald Westmoreland, ACC journalism professor and director of public relations, has here been rewritten--and not well--probably by Westmoreland's student Lane Cubstead. The ACC release appears in GA 103 (22 June 1961): 398. i have not found any reference to this event in the FF, although it published releases from David Lipscomb, Pepperdine, and York colleges in June 1961.
The ACC release does not mention Carl Spain, and the exact relationship of his landmark address to this desegregation announcement remains a matter for historical investigation. At the least we can say that Spain's lecture and the CC's coverage of it helped to create a climate that hastened and eased the formal lowering of racial barriers.
The transition from segregation is nothing if not "gradual." Black preachers who have earned undergraduate degrees are more likely to seek graduate education in law, business administration, dentistry, or some other field in which they can earn some money. Graduate theological education, even in Abilene, is no less likely to elicit suspicion among blacks than among whites, especially from those who have no formal education. Many blacks who have come through Nashville Christian Institute place a high value on education in general while decrying graduate education in Bible and religion as a threat to doctrinal purity. In this they reflect the reigning ideology in Nashville at the time. Batsell Barrett Baxter, having earned a doctorate in speech, seeks the Bachelor of Divinity at Vanderbilt only to secure the accreditation of the Bible department that he chairs. Students are advised to seek graduate degrees in other fields if they want to return to the campus and teach the Bible.
Not until the Spring semester of 1962 does ACC accept its first official African-American graduate student. Washington D. Harris, principal of an elementary school in Colorado City, Texas, has already earned a master's degree, but he enrolls in a graduate education course. By Fall 1962, six more black students are enrolled--including four undergraduate transfers: Larry Bonner and Billy Curl from Southwestern Christian; Daisy Lewis, a senior from Snyder who remains only one semester; and Shirley White, a senior transfer from Philander Smith. Shirley White's husband, Allen, a graduate of Tennessee State, and Dorothy Shinn, a graduate of Paul Quinn, are the graduate students. Jesse and Pat Johnson, a married couple transferring from Michigan Christian Junior College, enter ACC in Spring 1963. (i thank Erma Jean Loveland, the Archangel of the AC(U) Archives, and Craig Churchill, the Heavenly Librarian, for their continuing assistance and careful research in verifying the facts of this case.)
Opening the ACC graduate school to "all qualified applicants" does not respond to the need expressed by R. N. Hogan and others for undergraduate "Christian education" for blacks. It is, in effect, a public relations ploy designed to appear to do something while actually doing nothing, to promote the appearance of change while minimizing its true impact. It is a step forward, but only a step. That is how change comes in matters of the heart: one step at a time. But once that step is taken, there is no turning back. ACC never makes a public announcement of undergraduate desegregation, but simply admits the students who apply. As for active recruitment of freshmen, there is the matter of survival for Southwestern Christian. No story is so simple, or so complicated, as the story of black and white.
May God have mercy.
dhaymes, his mark +