University Honors First Black Student
LEXINGTON, Ky. — Within sight of a lawn where a cross was burned to protest the integration of the University of Kentucky, the son of the school’s first Black student helped unveil a historical marker in his father’s honor.
Lyman M. Johnson, a 53-year-old chemist from Philadelphia, joined UK officials last month in remembering his father, Lyman T. Johnson, whose successful lawsuit paved the way for Black graduate students to enter the institution 50 years ago this summer.
The elder Johnson sued UK in 1948 after being denied admission because he was Black. With the help of lawyers from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, he won the suit in March 1949. He and 29 other Black graduate students enrolled at UK that summer.
The school did not admit Black undergraduates until five years later, following the Supreme Court’s landmark desegregation ruling in Brown v. Board of Education.
“He’s beginning to loom larger in death than he did in life,” Johnson says of his father. “He started something, and it has grown.”
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