One of the most crucial years in the history of the Modern Civil Rights Movement was 1963. The historic March on Washington occurred in 1963, and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his unforgettable “I Have a Dream Speech” before more than 200,000 people gathered at the foot of the Lincoln Memorial.

In 1963 our nation observed the centennial of the Emancipation Proclamation. In a speech at Gettysburg that same year, Vice-President Lyndon Baines Johnson, SWT’s most distinguished Alumnus and a staunch advocate of civil rights said, “Until justice is blind, until education is unaware of race, until opportunity is unconcerned with the color of men’s skins, emancipation will be a proclamation but not a fact.”

Thanks to the efforts of Dana Smith, an 18-year-old black woman, President Johnson’s alma mater was forced to relinquish its segregationist tradition and offer education “unaware of race.” Miss Smith’s attempts to integrate Southwest Texas State Teachers College began in 1962 when she applied for admission to SWTTC.

However, in a letter to Miss Smith dated June 22, 1962, Dr. John G. Flowers indicated that her application had been rejected because of the whites only provision in the charter that established the college. A graduate of Austin’s Anderson High School (May 1962), Miss Smith was academically qualified to enroll at SWTTC. President Flowers informed Miss Smith that only an act of the State Legislature or a court order could make it possible for the college to admit Miss Smith and other black students.

Miss Smith’s father, Daniel, retained Austin attorney J. Phillip Crawford to file a complaint against the college on his daughter’s behalf, alleging that the college’s whites only admissions policy abrogated rights granted to her under the United States Constitution. In August 1962, Attorney Crawford filed suit number 1305 in U.S. District Court in Austin, Texas...

...At approximately 2:30 p.m. on Monday, February 4, 1963, Judge Rice signed the court order that ended segregation at SWTTC. His order instructed the college to “forthwith admit and enroll the said plaintiff, Dana Jean Smith, to said Southwest Texas State College, and to the utilization and participation in all of the education facilities…on the same basis as all others entitled thereto.” President Flowers said, “We will accept Negro students as we would any other academically qualified students.” By 3:15 that afternoon, Miss Smith and three other black women from San Marcos, Georgia Faye Hoodye, Gloria Odoms, and Mabeleen Washington, registered for classes assisted by the registrar. On Tuesday, Helen Jackson, another black student enrolled...

...The initiative that Miss Dana Jean Smith and the four other women took to integrate SWTTC, African American faculty, students, and staff acknowledge our debt to them and commend them for their fortitude and foresight. However, the larger University community also owes these women a debt of gratitude for making President Lyndon B. Johnson’s call for “education unaware of race” a reality at his alma mater.

- The African American Presence at SWT: Celebrating Forty Years