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UT Board of Regents opens UTEP to African-American students


On this day in 1955, the University of Texas Board of Regents voted to permit Texas Western College (now the University of Texas at El Paso) to admit black students. This decision came shortly after the U.S. Supreme Court had issued a supplementary ruling confirming its decision in Brown v. Board of Education (1954), which abolished segregation in public education. On the local scene in El Paso, a black student, Thelma Joyce White, had been denied admission to TWC for the 1954-55 school year and had brought suit in federal court. Her attorneys, including Thurgood Marshall, continued to press her suit, with the result that, on July 18, Judge Robert E. Thomason issued a declaratory judgment permanently enjoining the UT system from denying, on the basis of race, any African-American student the right to study at Texas Western. The plaintiff in this important case decided, however, to continue her studies at New Mexico A&M, though her children attended UTEP. She died in 1985. An academic support network for black students was founded at UTEP in 1993 and named for her.

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