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Texas Historical Marker Unveiled on MSU's Campus

The Texas Historical Commission awarded an official Texas Historic Marker on Midwestern State University's campus to commemorate the school's desegregation Saturday morning.

A dedication ceremony, including an unveiling of the marker, was held near the Ferguson building across from the Clark Student Center.

In 1951, six students filed a complaint in Wichita Falls District Court after the school denied admission of African Americans for years. 

The court ruled in their favor with MSU admitting their first integrated class in summer 1954.

Midwestern State University was the first senior college in all of Texas to actually desegregate, said MSU Director of Equity, Inclusion, and Multicultural Affairs Dr. Syreeta Greene.

It allowed local students to enroll in higher education nearby instead of having to travel more than 350 miles away to do so, she said.

Those who were from the first groups to be integrated were honored, including the last living plaintiff from the original case Menefee Billouin.

"They don't have to go so far away to go to school and from what I see now, it's wonderful," she said.

Alongside the honorees were their families.

Horace Pope brought his son and grandchildren, including University of North Texas law student Kira White, to the commemoration.

"Because of him, I went and got my undergrad degree and i just got accepted to law school and so i just think that's a big deal especially in our community that we need to continue to educate and make our voices be heard and known in a positive way."

Officials say the event's impact reached far beyond the school's borders.

"It's very important because it's the history of the local community and the institution but it is very meaningful in that this case helped shape the legal battle that would be used in Brown v. Board," said Chase Thorton, whose research while at MSU helped shed light on the event's significance.

In Brown v. Board of Education, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled state laws establishing separate public schools for blacks and whites unconstitutional.

White said the opportunity to get education for African Americans is a step in the right direction to change some misconceptions of them in the community and mainstream media.

Mayor Steven Santellana, MSU President Suzanne Shipley and Vice President of Student Affairs Keith Lamb were also in attendance.

African Americans currently make up nearly 14 percent of the student population at MSU.

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