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Harvey Gantt and the Desegregation of Clemson University

an exhibit presented by the Library in conjunction with
"Integration With Dignity: A Celebration of 40 Years" on January 28, 2003

Clemson College in the early '60's

As the 1960s began, Clemson College enrolled approximately 3,900 white male students and approximately 100 white female students. Eighty percent were from South Carolina, and ninety-four percent were from the South. Annual tuition, including room and board, was $882 for in-state students and $1082 for out-of-state students [1960-61].

Students could choose from twenty-nine majors in the Schools of Agriculture, Architecture, Arts and Sciences, Engineering, and Textiles. All unmarried, male students under age 21 were required to complete two years of basic ROTC (Reserve Officers' Training Corps).

Single male students lived in six dormitories (Johnstone Hall and the five dormitories that comprise the current fraternity housing), with two more under construction. There were three housing projects for married students. No dormitories were provided for women, although one was under construction. Freshmen were not allowed to have cars on campus.

The YMCA (Holtzendorff) and the new Student Center (Johnstone) were the centers of extra-curricular life. There were no social fraternities or sororities. Dances, concerts and intramural sports were popular campus activities. Intercollegiate athletics attracted large crowds. Memorial Stadium could seat 44,000 football fans.

The Library (the current Sikes Hall) desperately needed more space as enrollment increased each year. The newest buildings included Earle Hall, the School of Architecture Building (Lee), the Robert Franklin Poole Agricultural Center and the Physics Building (Kinard).

Local black residents worked for the College from its earliest days, but were mostly limited to jobs as custodians, outdoor laborers and cafeteria workers. Black entertainers were hired for college dances by the 1950s. But, there were no black students, faculty or administrators before 1963.

"Separate But Equal"

In 1896, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the case Plessy v. Ferguson that racial segregation was allowed as long as equal facilities were provided for both races. Although Plessy v. Ferguson involved only passenger accommodations on a railroad, the principle of "separate but equal" was applied to all aspects of public life. By 1914, every Southern state had passed laws creating separate facilities for blacks, including schools, restaurants, streetcars, health-care institutions and cemeteries. This artificial structure was maintained by denying black people the right to vote.

Gradual changes by the 1940s started the country on the long path toward ending "separate but equal." Large numbers of blacks moving west and north during World War II brought the issue to national attention. And black soldiers and sailors who returned from fighting for their country against injustice overseas were less tolerant of inequality at home.

Many white leaders continued to fight desegregation at all costs, although some attempts were made to forestall arguments that equal facilities were not provided. In South Carolina higher education, the state maintained a separate law school at South Carolina State College beginning in 1945. The South Carolina Area Trade School was founded in 1947. And the South Carolina Regional Education Board paid the difference between in-state and out-of-state fees for black students to attend colleges in other states if their field of interest was not available at South Carolina State College.

Brown v Board of Education, 1954 overrules "Separate But Equal"

On May 17, 1954 the Supreme Court decided the landmark case Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas. Linda Brown was denied admission to an elementary school in Topeka because she was black. Her case was brought together with cases from South Carolina, Virginia, and Delaware which involved the same basic question: Does the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment prohibit racial segregation in the public schools? In a unanimous opinion delivered by Chief Justice Earl Warren, the Supreme Court declared that "separate education facilities are inherently unequal."

Many white southerners, from politicians to business leaders to ordinary citizens, criticized the Supreme Court and refused to abide by the Brown decision. The 1956 session of the South Carolina General Assembly was called the "Segregation Session" because so many acts passed by the legislature were designed to prevent desegregating schools, parks and other facilities.

White Citizens' Councils and other groups that pledged to preserve white supremacy sprang up in many states, including South Carolina. Threats, intimidation and violence were used against blacks, as well as whites, who supported the Brown decision. In response, there was an increase in peaceful public protests, including sit-in demonstrations and economic boycotts, as well legal action to bring about integration. By 1963, every state except South Carolina had integrated at least one of its colleges or universities.

Other Black Applicants

The earliest known black applicant to Clemson College was Spencer Bracey, a student at South Carolina A&M College in 1948. Neither he nor 1956 applicant John L. Gainey, a soldier, pursued enrollment.

Cornelius T. Fludd graduated with Harvey Gantt from Burke High School in Charleston. He enrolled at Morehouse College in Atlanta and later joined Gantt at Iowa State. Fludd also wanted to transfer to Clemson and completed the same stages in the application process through the Spring of 1962. At that time, he decided not to continue his efforts to attend Clemson. Fludd currently is an assistant athletic director at the University of Texas.

Harvey B. Gantt
Architecture Student

Harvey B. Gantt was born in 1943 in Charleston where he grew up with four younger sisters. His father, Christopher Gantt, worked several jobs to support his family and also was a member of the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People). Harvey Gantt was eleven years old when the Brown v. Board of Education ruling was made. He began to take an interest in the issues of race about that time, later becoming part of the NAACP Youth Council and participating in at least one sit-in protest in Charleston.

Gantt graduated from Burke High School in 1960. He was interested in studying architecture and during his senior year of high school asked for application materials from Clemson, the only architecture school in South Carolina. But Clemson did not admit black students in 1960, so Gantt enrolled at Iowa State University. The South Carolina Regional Education Board paid $149.51 per quarter (the difference in cost between in-state and out-of-state enrollment) for him to study architecture at Iowa State University instead of at Clemson.

"Will you please send me a bulletin for the 1960-61 school year. I should like the bulletin to include the different curriculums and the cost of attending Clemson for one year. Also I am asking that you send me some applications for admission next semester or the fall of '61."
-- Harvey Gantt to Registrar's Office, November 2, 1960

The Registrar's office staff eventually sent Gantt a catalog and application card which he returned in December 1960. Clemson officials realized Gantt was black from the race question on the card.

"Your application for entrance in September, 1961 has been received. On inquiry, we find that the South Carolina Regional Education Board is paying, and expects to continue to pay provided you qualify, the difference in cost between in-state and out-of-state enrollment. In view of the above and your satisfactory progress at Iowa State University, we are returning your application."
-- Registrar's Office to Harvey Gantt, January 23, 1961

Gantt repeated his desire to attend Clemson and returned his application to be considered for enrollment in the Fall 1961 semester.

Harvey Gantt's application was put in the "incomplete" file and eventually he was advised that it was too late for him to be considered for the 1961 Fall semester. Gantt applied for admission again in December 1961, asking to be admitted either for the 1962 Spring semester or 1962 Fall semester.

In June 1962, Harvey Gantt traveled to Clemson and talked with Clemson Registrar Kenneth Vickery. He was told the college was waiting for his transcripts from Iowa State University. On July 2, he was advised that he needed to submit a portfolio of his work in architecture before his application could be reviewed.

Legal Action

"The plaintiff has not been granted admission to Clemson College although he is fully qualified for such admission and has met all requirements for such admission and although white students who applied after plaintiff applied and whose academic records are inferior to those of the plaintiff have been admitted. The admission of the plaintiff has been denied by the registrar of Clemson College solely because of the race and color of the plaintiff and pursuant to the policy, practice, custom and usage of limiting admission to Clemson College to white persons only."
- Complaint, Harvey Gantt v. Clemson Agricultural College of South Carolina, July 7, 1962

On July 7, 1962 Harvey Gantt filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of South Carolina, Anderson Division. The lawsuit was filed on his behalf by his father, Christopher Gantt, because Harvey Gantt was a minor. Gantt's lead attorney was Matthew Perry of Columbia. He also was represented by several NAACP attorneys from Greenville and New York, including Constance Baker Motley who represented James Meredith in his legal action against the University of Mississippi.

On July 9, 1962 a summons to be answered within twenty days, a complaint and a motion for preliminary injunction was served to President R.C. Edwards and Registrar Kenneth Vickery. Within the week similar papers were served to each member of the Board of Trustees and State Superintendent of Education J. T. Anderson.

On September 6, 1962, C. C. Wyche, U.S. District Judge for the Western District in South Carolina, denied the motion for preliminary injunction. The decision was appealed and heard in the United States Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Alexandria, Virginia on September 25 and October 4, 1962. On October 5, 1962, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals denied the request for a temporary injunction and expressed its desire that the case be heard on its merits by the District Court as soon as possible.

Matthew Perry

Matthew Perry was born in Columbia in 1921. After serving in the Army from 1942 to 1946, he completed his B.S. degree in 1948 and his law degree in 1951 at South Carolina State College. As a young civil rights lawyer, Perry was instrumental in achieving many successes for blacks. He was an attorney with the Columbia firm of Jenkins, Perry and Pride and also legal counsel in South Carolina for the NAACP.

Perry tried cases that led to the integration of beaches, parks, restaurants, and public schools and his trial work led to the release of some 7,000 people arrested for sit-in protests. Harvey Gantt first met Matthew Perry when Perry gave a speech at Gantt's church in 1958.

Robert Cook Edwards

Robert C. Edwards graduated from Clemson in 1933 with a degree in textile engineering. He served in the army during World War II and worked at Deering-Milliken. In 1956, Edwards began working at Clemson as vice president for development, a new position in which he supervised fundraising and public and alumni relations.

When President Poole died in June 1958, R.C. Edwards was named acting president. In April 1959 he was the unanimous choice to be Clemson's president.

Kenneth Vickery

Kenneth N. Vickery graduated from Clemson in 1938 and began working as assistant to the Registrar. He returned to Clemson after serving for 4 ½ years in the Army during World War II. Vickery became Director of Admissions in 1949, Registrar in 1955 and Director of Admissions and Registration in 1961.

Meanwhile, In Mississippi

On September 10, 1962, a federal court ordered the University of Mississippi to accept James Meredith, a twenty-eight-year-old Air Force veteran, as the school's first black student. Governor Ross Barnett vowed he would never allow the school to be integrated and personally blocked Meredith's enrollment. He was supported by hundreds of state policemen, sheriffs, residents and students.

To protect Meredith, U.S. Attorney General Robert Kennedy sent 123 deputy federal marshals, 316 U.S. border guards and 97 federal prison guards. They were attacked with guns, bricks and bottles. As violence escalated in late September, President John F. Kennedy sent more than 16,000 federal troops. Two people were killed, twenty-eight marshals were shot and 160 people were injured. Meredith finally enrolled on October 1, 1962. Federal troops remained on campus to protect him until he graduated in 1963.

The situation in Mississippi had a tremendous impact on Clemson and its supporters. Many people who opposed integrating the school more strongly opposed the violence and destruction that took place in Mississippi.

Behind the Scenes

In early 1961, R.C. Edwards discussed with John Cauthen whether state leaders would support a policy of law and order if the courts ordered Harvey Gantt to be admitted to Clemson. Cauthen began lining up support among business and political leaders for a non-violent course of action. They were joined, informally, by Charles Daniel, Edgar Brown, Ernest Hollings and Wayne Freeman. Freeman was editor of the Greenville News and a member of the Gressette Committee that dealt with the state's racial issues.

In July 1961, Charles Daniel made a speech at the annual Watermelon Festival in Hampton County saying that the state needed to deal openly with desegregation in a manner that would benefit all citizens of the state. The general public was much harder to convince, however. In early 1962, Governor Hollings told newspaper editors to begin preparing their readers for the "inevitable" - a black student being admitted to a previously all-white college. Newspapers began to cover the Gantt case in detail. And the public began to take notice.

Charles Daniel

Charles Daniel, a graduate of The Citadel and veteran of World War I, founded Daniel Construction Company in 1935. Eventually, Daniel International became one of the largest construction companies in the world. His company also built many of the buildings on Clemson's campus.

Daniel was a prominent business leader and served on the board of many national corporations and organizations. He was instrumental in getting many businesses and industries to build in South Carolina. In 1954, Daniel was appointed by Governor James F. Byrnes to fill an unexpired U. S. Senate term. He also served as a life member of the Clemson College Board of Trustees from 1949 to 1958.

John K. Cauthen

John K. Cauthen, from North Augusta, South Carolina, wrote for newspapers in Charleston and Columbia before becoming the state's first radio commentator for Columbia's station WIS in the late 1930s. He continued to work for the state in public affairs positions. In the 1940s, Cauthen served as executive secretary to two governors and later wrote speeches for several more. He also was a skilled lobbyist.

From 1945 to 1971, Cauthen was executive vice president of the South Carolina Textile Manufacturers Association. He worked with Charles Daniel and textile leaders to create an economic development policy that made the state an attractive place for industry.

Edgar A. Brown

Edgar A. Brown worked as a law clerk and court stenographer before passing the bar exam when he was twenty-one. He was Chairman of the state Democratic Party and served on executive committees on county, state and national levels. Brown was a state representative from 1921 to 1926, including one year as Speaker of the House. He was elected to the South Carolina Senate in 1928 and served until 1972, becoming one of the state's most powerful leaders. From 1942 to 1971 he was President Pro Tempore and Chairman of the Finance Committee.

Brown also served as an appointed member of the Clemson Board of Trustees from 1934 to 1946 and as a life trustee from 1948 to 1975. He received an honorary degree from Clemson in 1955.

Ernest "Fritz" Hollings

A native of Charleston, Fritz Hollings graduated from The Citadel in 1942. He served as an officer in World War II before graduating from the University of South Carolina School of Law in 1947. The following year, at age 26, he began his long career of public service when he was elected to the South Carolina House of Representatives. In his second term, Hollings' peers voted him Speaker Pro Tempore, a post to which he was re-elected in 1953. Two years later, he became Lieutenant Governor.

In 1958, at age 36, Hollings became the youngest man in the 20th century to be elected Governor of South Carolina. As Governor, Hollings stressed economic growth and development and developed the state's system of technical colleges. Donald S. Russell succeeded Hollings as governor of South Carolina in mid-January 1963.

Legal Action Continues

Harvey Gantt v. The Clemson Agricultural College of South Carolina was heard by Judge C.C. Wyche in Anderson, South Carolina, November 19 - 21, 1962. Clemson's defense was based on two points:

"We contend that Harvey Gantt has never completed an application for admission to Clemson and that he has not been denied admission."

"We contend that his application has been processed and treated in every other way in precisely the same manner as have all other applicants similarly situated without regard to race."

On December 22, 1962 Judge Wyche again ruled that Gantt's entrance to Clemson should be denied, stating that he failed to complete application requirements. He also ruled that the college's actions in the Gantt case were not based on race.

The case was appealed to the Fourth Circuit Court. On January 16, 1963 the Fourth Circuit Court reversed the lower court decision and ordered Gantt admitted to Clemson for the Spring semester which would begin on January 28, 1963.
Clemson then asked the Fourth Circuit Court, and then the U.S. Supreme Court, for a stay of the enforcement of the decision. Both requests were denied.

On January 22, 1963, in compliance with the ruling of the Court of Appeals of the Fourth Circuit Court, Judge Wyche issued the order that Harvey Gantt be admitted to Clemson College.

Avoiding Violence

After the ruling, several members of the state legislature debated closing Clemson to prevent Gantt from enrolling. But, few others supported that course of action. President R. C. Edwards, John Cauthen and their small group of associates had continued to plan for the peaceful integration of Clemson College whenever it was to take place. Rather than waiting for reactions to a legal ruling, they had lined up supporters in advance.

On January 24th, Governor Russell, State Senator Marion Gressette and President Edwards all held press conferences asking that there be no violence or disruption. Gressette was head of the Gressette Committee, also known as the School Segregation Committee because it dealt with all the state's racial issues. His participation was significant in sending a message that there would be no support for blocking Gantt's enrollment.

"I feel that I have the confidence of the student body in saying that the students at Clemson will react with the traditional maturity of Clemson men and that there will be no violence connected with the admittance of Harvey Gantt."
-- Clemson student body president Bill Hendrix, c January 17, 1963

"An overwhelming majority of the major business, industrial and professional interests of the state strongly approve the announced determination of the board of trustees and the administration of Clemson College to maintain law and order at all times, thereby guaranteeing that control of the institution will remain, without interruption, under the direction of constituted authorities of the state of South Carolina. Not only must we insure law and order at Clemson College, but we must preserve and project the good name of South Carolina - demonstrating to the rest of the nation and the world that our dedication to the established and prevailing
American way of life is consistent and enduring."

-- statement released c January 20, 1963 by the South Carolina State Chamber of Commerce, South Carolina
Textile Manufacturers Association, South Carolina Bankers Association and South Carolina Broadcasters Association.

Religious leaders of the state issued a similar statement.

"If the ultimate decision of the Federal courts directs that Harvey Gantt should be admitted, my position is that the board of trustees and the administration at Clemson College will not tolerate violence on the Clemson campus."
-- State Senator and Clemson Board of Trustees member Edgar Brown, late December 1962

"However distasteful these federal decisions may be to us and whatever may be our opinion as to the justice of such decisions, we shall meet and solve this problem peaceably, without violence, without disorder, and with proper regard for the good name of our State and her people."
- Governor Donald Russell, January 24, 1963

"We have all argued that the Supreme Court decision of 1954 is not the law of the land. But everyone must agree that it is the fact of the land… If and when every legal remedy has been exhausted, this General Assembly must make clear South Carolina's choice, a government of laws rather than a government of men."
-- Governor Ernest F. Hollings, Farewell Address to the South Carolina General Assembly, January 1963

In October 1962, Governor Hollings sent J. P. Strom, the chief of the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED), to Oxford, Mississippi to study the situation and use the information to work out a detailed security plan for Clemson. The plan was used on January 28th. More than 100 policemen, highway patrolmen and SLED officers were assigned to campus. They set up ten checkpoints to review identification cards of everyone arriving on campus. The SLED plane was available for aerial patrol if needed. Governor Donald Russell refused an offer for federal troops from U.S. Attorney General Robert Kennedy.

Students were issued identification cards to carry at all times. They were told: "Your only reason for being at Clemson is for the purpose of obtaining an education. You are expected to continue to carry out the duties of a mature student as you pursue this objective. . . . Lawlessness and disorder will no more be tolerated on the Clemson campus in the future than it has been in the past. Please do not let idle curiosity allow you to become involved in a situation in which you have no connection or responsibility."

Joe Sherman

Joe Sherman was raised in Clemson and graduated from the College in 1934. He took over full-time the college news bureau he had started as a student. Sherman did both general college publicity and sports publicity for Clemson until 1947. Then he went to work at the University of Florida and later as an editor with the National Collegiate Athletic Bureau of the NCAA. He returned to Clemson as director of public and alumni relations in 1956 and began Tigerama later that year.

Walter T. Cox

Walter T. Cox graduated from Clemson in 1939 and began working the next year as assistant football coach, baseball coach and athletic business manager. In 1950, he became director of public relations and alumni affairs and assistant to the president. In 1955, Cox was named vice president for student affairs.

January 28, 1963

Only new and transfer students reported to Clemson on Monday, January 28th. Classes didn't begin until Friday. Harvey Gantt left Charleston early in the morning and arrived at Clemson around 1 pm with his attorney, Matthew Perry. He first went to Tillman Hall where he enrolled in the Registrar's Office and then spoke outside to the gathered media. Next Gantt went to the School of Architecture (Lee Hall) where he met with Dean Harlan McClure. He met briefly with President Edwards and then went to his room, Room 502 in Dormitory B (Johnstone Hall). He wasn't assigned a roommate.

The press followed Gantt to each location. Over a hundred students followed the crowd at first, usually laughing and joking. Most eventually lost interest.

Harvey Gantt attended orientation sessions on January 29, signed up for classes on January 30 and then had a day off before classes began on February 1.

Media Coverage

More than 150 members of the press from around the country -- including three black reporters -- arrived in Clemson to cover Harvey Gantt's admission. The Clemson House was set up as their headquarters, with additional telephones and teletype machines. For security reasons, all newsmen had to show press credentials and to register to be on campus.

President Edwards held two press conferences and Joe Sherman held one. They issued a list of rules that reporters were to follow. The peaceful enrollment of Harvey Gantt, the first black student to attend a formerly all-white school in South Carolina, was reported all over the world.

Harvey Gantt was followed around by plainclothes officers acting as bodyguards for several months. But, he experienced little trouble. In September 1963, Lucinda Brawley became the second black student, and the first black woman, to enroll at Clemson. She and Gantt were married in 1964.

More about Harvey Gantt

Harvey Gantt was selected for the Minarets, Clemson's local architectural honor society and for Tau Sigma Delta, the national architectural honor society. He graduated from Clemson in 1965.

The University of South Carolina admitted its first black students in the Fall of 1963. By 1965, all of the state's public colleges and twelve of twenty-five private colleges were admitting qualified students without regard to race.

Harvey Gantt worked for an architectural firm in Charlotte after graduating from Clemson. He received a master's degree in City Planning from MIT in 1970 and formed the Charlotte architectural firm of Gantt, Huberman and Associates.

In 1974, Gantt was elected to the first of three terms on the Charlotte City Council. In 1983, he became Charlotte's first black mayor, serving two terms. In 1990 and 1996 Gantt ran for the U.S. Senate seat held by Jesse Helms. In 1995 President Bill Clinton appointed him chairman of the National Capital Planning Commission, where he served until 2000.

Harvey Gantt has continued to guest lecture at Clemson through the years. In 1988 the University launched the Harvey B. Gantt Scholarship Endowment to fund scholarships for black students at Clemson. And in 2000, the multicultural affairs office suite in the Hendrix Student Center was named for Harvey and Lucinda Gantt.

Harvey Gantt speaks at "Integration With Dignity: A Celebration of 40 Years"
on January 28, 2003

The marker is unveiled...











For further reading about Harvey Gantt and the Desegregation of Clemson University, click here

For questions, please contact the OIR office

302 Sikes Hall
Clemson University
Clemson, SC 29634-5406
Phone: (864) 656-0161
Fax: (864) 656-0163

Last Revised: February 5, 2008

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