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Apr 06 2019

A group of African American veterans of World War II, barred from admission on the grounds of race and calling themselves the Negro Goodwill Council, protested to Governor Beauford Jester about the exclusion of blacks from Lamar State College. They attempted to block passage of the bill to change Lamar into a state-supported senior college, which resulted in John Gray, Lamar’s president, creating a black branch of Lamar called Jefferson Junior College. It opened with evening classes at Charlton-Pollard High School. In 1952, James Briscoe, a graduate of Charlton-Pollard High School, applied to Lamar. His parents were laborers and members of the Beaumont chapter of the NAACP. The admissions office notified him that on the basis of his transcript, he was qualified to enroll for the spring term of 1951. On January 29, when Briscoe went to register for classes, Lamar’s acting president G. A. Wimberly explained that a mistake had been made and suggested he apply to TSUN, now named Texas Southern University. State law, he said, created Lamar for whites only. In the summer of 1955, Versie Jackson and Henry Cooper, Jr. became the lead plaintiffs of a class action lawsuit, Jackson v. McDonald, which sought to end Lamar’s policy of racial segregation. Lamar Cecil, federal judge, ruled on July 30, 1956, that Lamar’s “white youth” only admissions policy was unconstitutional and that September, a total of twenty-six blacks were admitted to the college amid violent protests at the campus gates and throughout the region for a number of weeks until Texas Rangers arrived and the rule of law restored.

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