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“Athletics and Desegregation” at Furman

Women's basketball coach Jackie Carson is among the panelists for the "Athletics and Desegregation" discussion.
Women’s basketball coach Jackie Carson is among the panelists for the “Athletics and Desegregation” discussion.

Furman University will sponsor a panel discussion, “Athletics and Desegregation,” Wednesday, April 15 at 6:30 p.m. in Daniel Recital Hall as part of the university’s yearlong commemoration of the 50th anniversary of desegregation.

The panel discussion was rescheduled from February after bad weather forced its cancellation.

The panelists include three notable Furman African-American graduates of the athletic program—former women’s basketball standout and current head basketball coach Jackie Smith-Carson ‘00, men’s basketball All-American Clyde Mayes ’75 and Rodney Acker ‘73, Furman’s first African-American football player.

The panel also includes retired history professor Dr. John Block ‘63, Furman’s longtime NCAA Faculty Athletics Representative and former vice president of intercollegiate athletics. The discussion will be moderated by Furman history professor Dr. Steve O’Neill ‘82, a former Paladin All-Southern Conference football linebacker.

Athletics has played a vital role in the desegregation of Furman’s student body over the last five decades.  Today approximately 50 percent of Furman’s African-American males are student-athletes, and 36 percent of Furman’s African-American students are also athletes.  At present, 13.1 percent of the university’s approximately 400 student-athletics are African-American, compared to 5.1 percent of the overall student body.

Fifty years ago, on January 29, 1965, Joseph Allen Vaughn became Furman’s first African-American undergraduate student. His enrollment was the culmination of 10 years of work by hundreds of students, staff members, and professors who believed desegregation was “the only policy permissible for a liberal arts institution.” Thanks in part to their efforts, Furman became the first private university in the state to pass a non-discriminatory admissions policy.

This year, a special committee composed of selected faculty, staff, students, and administrators has planned a commemoration of the events that so profoundly transformed Furman 50 years ago.  The committee has published a booklet detailing the history of Furman’s desegregation and has planned a dozen events over the 2014-15 academic year. A full list of events can be found on the official Desegregation Commemoration website.

For more information, contact Dr. O’Neill at 864-294-3346 or

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