The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 95, July 1991 - April, 1992

Steadfast in His Intent:
John W. Hargis and the Integration
of the University of Texas at Austin
RICHARD B. MCCASLIN*
ON JUNE 5, 1950, THE UNITED STATES SUPREME COURT ORDERED THE
Law School of the University of Texas at Austin to admit black ap-
plicant Heman M. Sweatt. Although this decision was a crucial step in
the desegregation of all admissions by the university, it did not repudi-
ate the doctrine of separate but equal established in Plessy v. Ferguson,
adjudicated by the Court in 1896. The university continued to segre-
gate undergraduate admissions for five more years, referring blacks to
state institutions of higher education elsewhere in the state. In June
1955 John W. Hargis became the first black undergraduate admitted to
the university, completing the process of judicial integration begun by
Sweatt. During his struggle to gain admission, and while becoming the
first black to earn a degree in chemical engineering from the university,
Hargis remained "steadfast in his intent," as a colleague later recalled,
to establish blacks as a vital part of the university community. This de-
termination led him to return to Austin after retiring early from a suc-
cessful business career and to resume playing an active role in minority
affairs at the university until his untimely death in 1986.'
*Richard B McCaslin, assistant professor of history at High Point College in High Point,
North Carolina, is the primary author of Commitment to Excellence. One Hundred Years of Engi-
neering Educatzon at the Universty of Texas (1986). A former associate editor of The Papers of An-
drew Johnson (1967- ), he is now compiling an annotated bibliography on Johnson to be pub-
lished by Greenwood Press, and is revising his doctoral dissertation, "Tainted Breeze: The
Great Hanging at Gainesville, Texas, October 1862" (University of Texas at Austin, 1988), for
pubhcation.
'John W. Hargis to Richard B. McCaslin, June 2o, 1985, interview (copy of tape and tran-
script in Eugene C Barker Texas History Center, University of Texas, Austin; cited hereafter
as BTHC); "Remarks by Edwin R Sharpe at Memorial Service for John Willis Hargis, Bates
Recital Hall, November 21, 1986" (quotation), President's Office Files (typescript; University of
Texas, Austin). Hargis was not the first black to receive an undergraduate degree from the
University of Texas; Edna Humphries Rhambo transfered to the university from Huston-
Tillotson College in September 1956, with Hargis's encouragement, and received a bachelor of
science in education in August 1958. Racial designations were not included in student records
in the 1950s, so it may be that other black undergraduates received degrees before Hargis. See
the Austin American-Statesman, Aug. o20, 1987.

Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 95, July 1991 - April, 1992. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth117153/. Accessed July 31, 2014.