First African-Americans Enrolled at Lamar University, 1956

Harriot Anderson ~ Freddie Mae Bell ~ Betty Jean Booker ~ Alfred Briscoe III ~ Mattie Lee Cobb ~ Lonnie Flanagan ~ Winona Frank ~ Edward Frank Jr. ~ Versie Jackson ~ Alice Jefferson ~ Theodore Johns Jr. ~ Hebert Joseph ~ Lillie Mae Joseph ~ Lexsee Nixon Jr. ~ Alvin Randolph ~ Lillian M. Rhodes ~ Jimmie Rice ~ Elnora Riggs ~ Robert Sampia ~ Clarence Sams ~ Hazel Thibodeaux ~ Vara Vincent ~ Adam Wade

First African-American Graduates of Lamar University, 1958

Freddie Mae Bell, Education ~ Lonnie Flanagan, Education ~ Winona Frank, Education ~ Alvin Randolph, Education ~ Jimmie Rice, Education ~ Vara Vincent, Business

Did You Know?

Anthony Guillory, a Hebert graduate and football stand-out became the first black in Lamar’s sports program in the spring of 1962. Guillory set records and opened the door for integration in the rest of Lamar’s athletic programs. He went on to play professional football for the Los Angeles Rams and Philadelphia Eagles before returning to Beaumont as a businessman. 

Winona Frank was one of the first of three black women to graduate from Lamar in 1958. She lived the majority of her life in Beaumont, where she spent more than three decades as an educator with the Beaumont Independent School District. In 2004, Frank was honored as one of the first recipients of the Pioneering Women Awards, an honor for Southeast Texas women who have broken barriers and paved the way for others. Her son, Amilcar Shabazz, is the director of the African-American Studies program at the University of Alabama-Tuscaloosa.

Wilford Flowers, the first African-American assistant attorney for Travis County, recently retired a state district judge in Austin. 

The late Claude Monroe, the university’s first African American faculty member, was honored by having a residence hall dedicated in his name. 

John Payton, an associate professor in the department of health and kinesiology, was the first African-American coach of any sport at Lamar University.

Vernon Durden, a Lamar alum and local businessman, was selected as a Lamar University Distinguished Alumni and recipient of the Community Service Award.

Bernard Harris, the first African-American in space, recently visited local summer camps for kids. 

Student Organizations

Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority ~ Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity ~ African American Male Professionals ~ Black Dynasty ~ Black Student Association ~ Delta Sigma Theta Sorority ~ Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity ~ Lamar University NAACP College Chapter ~ National Association of Black Accountants ~ LU Chapter National Black Law Students Association ~ National Pan-Hellenic Council, LU Division ~ National Society of Black Engineers ~ Omega Psi Phi Fraternity ~ Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity ~ Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority ~ Zeta Phi Beta Sorority

Event Calendar

Cake Cutting
Tuesday, February 7, 11:30 am - 12:30 pm. Setzer Center Arbor

Movie Night: “Get on the Bus”
Tuesday, February 7, 7 pm - 8:30 pm. Setzer Center Ballroom

Mis-Education of a College Student, Hosted by Lamar NAACP
Wednesday, February 8, 7 pm - 9 pm. Landes Auditorium, Galloway Business Building

Real Talk with James Payne, Hosted by Lamar Alive! Student Activities Board
Thursday, February 9, 7 pm - 9 pm. Setzer Center Ballroom

Unity March & BBQ
Friday, February 10, 3:30 pm - 6 pm. Begins at Setzer Center Arbor, Ends at Cardinal Park

Events organized by: African Student Association, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Psalms 150, Man Up, Woman to Woman, Poetic Souls, and the Lamar University NAACP College Chapter.

Black History: The Story of Desegregation at Lamar University

The story of desegregation at Lamar University begins not on this campus, but at the “Black Branch” of Lamar Junior College, which opened in the fall of 1948 at Charlton-Pollard High School, one of Beaumont’s black high schools. President John Gray had promised area blacks separate facilities the year before. The first attempt at integrating Lamar came in the fall of 1950 when James Briscoe, a native of Beaumont who was attending Morehouse College in Atlanta, applied to transfer to Lamar and was accepted on the basis of his transcript. On January 29, 1952, Briscoe came to Lamar, his acceptance letter in hand, but was encouraged to enroll instead at Texas Southern University. In 1954, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the “separate but equal” principle in the Brown vs. Topeka Kansas Board of Education ruling, declaring that state laws establishing separate public schools for blacks and whites unconstitutional. In August 1955, seven black students, Henry Cooper Jr., James Anthony Cormier, Dorothy Harrison, Versie Brooks Jackson, Russell Pierre, Noble Warren and Henry Zenn, escorted by four members of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, presented transcripts to Celeste Kitchen, Lamar’s registrar, and applied for admission. The seven were given catalogs and told they would have to have permission from president F.L. McDonald for admission. On August 23, 1955, a Lamar night watchman discovered a burning cross on campus. The Lamar Regents met later that day and denied the seven students admission, stating two reasons: the 1949 legislative act that created Lamar State College had designated it a co-educational school for white students, and second, the school was already overcrowded. The local NAACP chapter filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of the seven students. Of the seven, only Cormier and Jackson continued to petition for admittance to Lamar. Attorneys Elmo Willard III and Theodore Johns subsequently filed suit in U.S. District Court on March 14, 1956, to desegregate Lamar College. The NAACP wanted to have Lamar’s restriction declared unconstitutional. In July 1956, the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Lamar must admit all qualified students.

On Aug. 1, 1956, six hooded figures set fire to a 12-foot gasoline-soaked wooden cross on campus. On August 11, two more crosses were found burning near campus. In both instances, the suspects were reported to be students. Five black students attended classes the first day of the fall semester of 1956. Six more joined them by the third day; within two weeks, 26 black students enrolled. Petitions and picketing ensued to protest the desegregation. McDonald took the protest under advisement. Although the picketing was peaceful, resentment grew among students, faculty, and picketers. On October 2, 1956, several black students were confronted by the picketers, primarily members of Beaumont’s White Citizens Council and other “citizens councils” from the area, who blocked entrances to the University in an attempt to keep the black students out. Violence, intimidation and threats erupted. For the next three days, there was general harassment of faculty and students, both black and white, by picketers. All entrances were blocked, but none of the picketers entered the classrooms and they rarely entered the buildings. Eventually, both teachers and students complained to McDonald. He asked Mayor Jimmie Cokinos to call in police to restore order at Lamar. The picketers were arrested. Within the boundaries of campus, classes had been held from the first day without incident. Classes continued for the first time without picketers on October 5, 1956. That night, however, crosses blazed on campus and in front of City Hall. “The key value which decided the leaders to act was not equal opportunity, but law and order,” Warren Breed wrote in Beaumont, Texas: College Desegregation without Popular Support in 1952. “When leaders did act - perhaps somewhat belatedly - they acted firmly. This includes the college president, the newspaper editor, the mayor and the chief of police. No situation arose in which leaders lost control of their public.” The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Judge Lamar Cecil’s ruling on May 21, 1957 and Lamar ended its battle against desegregation.

Today, Lamar University is proud of its diverse campus community. Lamar University continues its commitment to “diversity in ideas, people, and access”, as indicated in the university’s core values. Evidence of this commitment can be seen through various awards and honors such as recognition from U.S. News and World Report listing Lamar University as one of the most diverse universities in the West and Diverse: Issues in Higher Education listing Lamar as one of the Top 100 Producers of Minority Degrees, a ranking that acknowledges institutions that confer the most degrees to minority students. The University has seen growth in the number of African-American applicants and has increased the number of accepted students. Most importantly, Lamar University is proud and committed to its increasing number of African-American graduates and alumni. Lamar’s African-American alumni can be found all over the world. In addition to a diverse student population, Lamar University has an integrated faculty staff, and administration. Lamar University is committed to providing a learning environment of the highest quality and integrity as well as a campus culture that is inclusive. Source: Summer 1998. Black History: The Story of Desegregation. Cardinal Cadence, Anniversary Edition, 44-45. Edited for length by Student Development and Leadership.

Additional Resources


Beaumont, A Chronicle of Promise: An Illustrated History. Linsley, Judith Walker & Ellen Walker Rienstra. Windsor Pub., 1982. Call No. F394.B3 L56

Beaumont: A Pictorial History. Walker, John & Gwendolyn Wingate. Donning Co., 1983. Call No. F394.B3 B4 1983

Beaumont, Texas: College Desegregation Without Popular Support. Warren Beard Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith with cooperation of the Society for the Social Study of Social Problems. Call No. LA372.B4 B7

Cardinal Power: A Study of Income & Expenditures of Lamar Tech Students. Thompson, John R. Lamar State College of Technology, 1970. Call No. LB2342.T4816

A History of the Growth and Development of Lamar University from 1949-1973. Welch, Joe Ben. 1974 Call No. LD2934.L32 W4155 c.2

Reflections of the Philosophy and Practices of Lamar State College of Technology as Shown Through its History. McLaughlin, Marvin Louis. 1955. Call No. LD2924.L32 M2

South Park Story 1891-1971 and The Founding of Lamar University 1923-1941: A Documented 80 Year History. McLaughlin, Marvin Louis. 1955. Call No. LD2934.L32 A8


A Historical Study of Speech Education at Lamar UniversityHudson, Carol Sue Fowler. 1974. Call No. PN4093.B3 H8138

The History of Lamar Junior College. Hutchinson, Earl Eugene. 1938. Call No. LD294.L32 H8 c.Reserve Room

The Desegregation of Lamar State College of Technology: An Analysis of Race & Education in South-East Texas. Shabazz, Amilcar. Lamar University, 1990. Call No. LD2934.L32 S523 c.2


Dedication of the Texas State Historical Marker of South Park High School & the Founding of Lamar University. Image Specialists, 1989. Call No. Video Cass 1620