Integration of VSC
By Jacelyn Lane
The Civil Rights Movement, segregation, integration, even protest were words that dominated the media, thoughts, and actions throughout the 1960's. The events of the Civil Rights Movement were prevalent in the South; Lowndes County and the city of Valdosta even had their share of the movement. The government had given an order that all schools must integrate; however, some schools, especially in the South, refused to allow blacks into the white schools. The black community fought and prevailed, using the courts to force integration of the white schools. Although Valdosta State College was not given a court order, the faculty knew that if they did not integrate soon they too would be taken to court. Valdosta State College's first two black students were voluntarily given admission to the school.
In September of 1963, three hundred freshmen entered Valdosta State College; two of those freshmen were black. Robert Pierce, 18, and Drewnell Thomas, 17, were the first of their race to attend VSC. Pierce and Thomas were honor graduates of Valdosta's Pinevale High School for black students. The two students applied with about twenty other black students and were admitted because they met all the qualifications for admission. At orientation the two were taken to the gym, where the assembly was taking place, by a black adult; then Dr. Louie Sosbee, Dean of Students, escorted them in. Dressed appropriately in a suit and dress, the two students sat towards the rear of the gym, in preparation for their first day at VSC. Although they generally kept to themselves, they were in attendance at the Student Government Association where they occupied seats closer to the front of the room.
VSC President Dr. J. Ralph Thaxton had urged the VSC students toward tolerance and acceptance of the two black students; however, most VSC students seemed unconcerned. The faculty was nervous and two police officers were on campus the first day. However, all went well and there were no incidents, like in other schools, of protests or violence.
"Negro Boy, Girl Here Quietly Attend VSC: First of Race Enter School Without any Disturbances." Valdosta Daily Times. 18 September 1963.
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