Black On Campus
Higher Education and the African American Experience

South’s First Black Law Student Receives Posthumous Recognition

July 16th, 2008 by Ajuan Mance

Silas Hunt (1922 – 1949)

Silas Hunt enrolled at the University of Arkansas Law School in 1948.

This year, sixty years after first enrolling, Silas Hunt has finally been awarded his degree. reports that, “Law school Dean Cynthia Nance said the college wanted to honor Hunt as the 60th anniversary of his enrollment came this year.”

A graduate of the Agricultural, Mechanical, and Normal College at Pine Bluff (later the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff). His undergraduate studies were interrupted by his service in WWII. He returned to the United States, having been injured in the course of duty. He completed his bachelor’s degree, however, and enrolled in law school in 1948.

During his first spring in law school, Hunt attended segregated class sessions in the basement of the law school building. He was a promising student, but his education was cut short by his diagnosis and swift decline from tuberculosis, which he probably contracted during the war. Hunt was hospitalized in winter of 1949. He died on April 22 of the same year.

The online Encyclopedia of Arkansas describes the events that led to Hunt’s pioneering quest to earn a law degree at a white, southern university:

On February 2, 1948, Hunt—accompanied by Branton [a college friend], Pine Bluff attorney Harold Flowers, and AM&N newspaper photographer Gelieve Grice—arrived on the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County) campus to meet with Dr. Robert A. Leflar, dean of the law school, and apply for admission to the law school. After a brief review of his academic record, Leflar was impressed enough to admit Hunt to the law school. This signified the first time a black student had been officially admitted to a white Southern university since Reconstruction and the first ever admitted for graduate or professional studies.

To commemorate his achievements, UA began awarding the Silas Hunt Distinguished Scholar Awards in 2003 to deserving black students. In 2007, the state legislature made February 2, the day Huntenrolled in classes, a memorial day in his name.

In addition, the UA Law School also named a building after Hunt.

Click THIS LINK to read the resolution that posthumously grants Hunt his U of A law degree.

Click THIS LINK to learn more about the UA’s award-winning documentary on the life of Silas Hunt.

Posted by Ajuan Mance

Posted in African Americans, Black Colleges, Black History, Black Students, Current Events, Law School, race, University of Arkansas

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