UNC marks anniversary of landmark desegregation ruling

Posted September 17, 2010 6:06 p.m. EDT
Updated September 17, 2010 6:22 p.m. EDT

The first three black men to attend the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill were honored Friday in a series of events marking the anniversary of a federal court decision that overturned a 150-year-old school policy.

Thursday marked the 55th anniversary of the ruling that said the university could not prohibit brothers Ralph and LeRoy Frasier and John Brandon from attending the school as undergraduates.

After their applications were rejected, the UNC Board of Trustees passed a resolution barring the admission of blacks to the school. The men filed a lawsuit against the board, leading to the ruling on Sept. 16, 1955.

The three men appeared at a panel discussion Friday afternoon at UNC's Sonja Haynes Stone Center for Black Culture and History, where they shared some light moments as well as details of their struggles.

"Had it not been for the three of us in 1955, the door would have been cracked by somebody else in 1956 or 1957, and those things would have transpired," Ralph Frasier said.

The three were also to be recognized at a dinner later in the evening as well at the UNC-Georgia Tech football game Saturday.

Although the students enrolled at UNC, none chose to finish his degree there.

Ralph Frasier left UNC in 1958 for the military and later enrolled at North Carolina Central University in Durham, where he completed his degree and eventually earned a law degree.

He worked in banking for more than 30 years, retiring in 1998 as general counsel for Huntington Bancshares Inc. in Columbus, Ohio. His public service has included service on the board of trustees at NCCU.