Kick off UT Knoxville’s celebration of 50 years of African American achievement

Theotis RobinsonThis year, UT Knoxville celebrates the 50th anniversary of the admission of its first African American undergraduate students and the rich legacy of African American achievement campus-wide.

In July 1960, Theotis Robinson Jr. applied for admission to the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. On January 4, 1961, Robinson, along with two other African American students—Charles Edgar Blair and Willie Mae Gillespie—gained admittance and began classes.

UT Knoxville will commemorate this important anniversary all year with special events and speakers, starting with a kickoff event at 4:30 p.m. on Tuesday, February 1. (The original kickoff event was scheduled for January but was postponed due to inclement weather.)

In tribute to the original students’ brave walk to integrate UT, we will march from the Torchbearer statue to the University Center Auditorium. A celebration in the auditorium will follow with our special guest, Olympian and UT alumna Benita Fitzgerald-Mosley. Please mark your calendars and plan to join this celebration. We welcome all who would like to participate in this celebration.

Throughout 2011, many other events and celebrations will be held. Please visit for information on future activities and further information about the history of African American achievement at the University of Tennessee. Also take time to view some alumni memories or share one of your own.

If you need further information on the kickoff event or the yearlong celebration, contact Charles Houston (865-974-3011) or Annazette Houston (865-974-6087) or e-mail

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Tim Arnold January 26, 2011 - 11:08 am

For many years I have observed that UT has pandered to African Americans. Even while attending UT in the 1970s it was very obvious. There was the “Black Cultural Center” while I was there. Many of us commented that there was not a White Cultural Center. Why was there no White Cultural Center?

What about Irish Americans, Italian Americans, German Americans, Mexican Americans and the many other Americans that have made major contributions to this university and to this country?

The University of Tennessee is a politically-correct, reverse-racist institution of which I am ashamed to say I graduated from.

I have not been back since I graduated in August of 1980 and I have not contributed any funding to the school. Furthermore, I will never allow my children to visit the school or attend it. The citizens of the state of Tennessee should be ashamed of the way their state university has been run and has evolved. It is an abomination!

Terry Stevens January 26, 2011 - 12:12 pm

I hope Tim has used the degree he got from UT. Yes UT has pushed for (pandered) for advancement of black cultural events, but to say that they do this at the expense of other cultures is wrong. UT has strived to be a multi cultural campus. I am a white hillbilly and got my professional degree from UT. I like most UT grads am very proud to have gotten my degree from UT.

Gregory January 26, 2011 - 1:54 pm

@ Tim Arnold

I am in the group that you considered UT pandering too. If you did not notice when you were at UTK, the campus was about 95% white, therefore the entire campus was defacto White Cultural Center. Do I need to break it down further 4 U?

With the attidude that you display in your writting, I am THANKFUL that you do NOT come back to the campus. People with your attitude are NOT welcomed at the UT i graduated from!

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