Campus Community Invited to 75 Years of Progress: The Lasting Legacy of Silas Hunt

Silas H. Hunt
Special Collections

Silas H. Hunt

Join attorney Arkie Byrd for a lunchtime presentation hosted by the U of A School of Law, the Black Graduate Student Association and Enrollment Services. Her talk, "75 Years of Progress: The Lasting Legacy of Silas Hunt," will take place at noon Friday, Feb. 10, in Giffels Auditorium (Old Main 201), as part of the commemoration of the 75th anniversary of Silas Hunt's admission to the U of A law school. A reception will follow the presentation in the entrance hallway to Giffels Auditorium.

Byrd, an alumna of the U of A, received her bachelor's degree and Juris Doctor from Fayetteville. Her talk, based on her personal experiences, will address the challenges many first-generation students encounter in their higher education journeys and provide ways students may work to overcome those challenges.

Byrd is a partner with the Little Rock-based law firm of Mays, Byrd and O'Guinn PLLC. She is also a former fellow of the Institute of Politics at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. Prior to joining Mays, Byrd and O'Guinn PLLC, Byrd served as a staff attorney for the National Partnership for Women & Families (formerly the Women's Legal Defense Fund). In that position, she was involved in the development of national public policy in the areas of gender and race equity — which emphasized advocacy and constituency representation before the administrative, judicial and executive branches of the federal government. She has advised corporate, governmental and individual clients in Equal Employment Opportunity matters as well as EEO claims. She has also represented clients in domestic, probate and criminal matters. Byrd has served as a cooperating attorney with the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, Inc. To that end, she was involved in two historic Civil Rights cases, one of which changed the face of the Arkansas judiciary (Hunt vs. State of Arkansas).

Organizers encourage the public to reflect about the Silas Hunt Legacy by sharing their thoughts using the hashtag #SilasHuntDay. Attendees will receive a free commemorative T-shirt.

Additional commemorations planned for this year include Silas Hunt: A Documentary screenings during February in Silas H. Hunt Hall (Office of Admissions). The campus community is invited to watch the documentary and participate in a "belonging dialogue circle" facilitated by Student Affairs.

About Silas Hunt

Hunt was a native of Texarkana and veteran of World War II. He made history on Feb. 2, 1948, when he became the first African American student to attend a major public university in the South and the first ever admitted for graduate or professional studies. Robert A. Leflar, then dean of the U of A School of Law, reviewed Hunt's academic record and admitted him.

This was the first step toward integration at the U of A, as well as colleges and universities across the Southern United States. At this time though, integration of the classroom did not exist, and Hunt attended separate classes in the law school's basement.

Hunt only completed one semester of classes before becoming ill and withdrawing from school. He died from tuberculosis on April 22, 1949, less than 16 months after starting his legal studies. His legacy, however, continued. Students Wiley A. Branton, George W. Haley, George Howard Jr., Christopher Mercer and Jackie A. Shropshire quickly followed in Hunt's footsteps. Collectively, they have become known as the Six Pioneers.

historic image of Silas Hunt at door to the University of Arkansas School of Law
Silas Hunt stands at the doorway to the University of Arkansas School of Law on Feb. 2, 1948. He entered and successfully sought admission to the university, setting in motion the desegregation of education in Arkansas and across the American South. (Special Collections, University Libraries)


Rafael Arciga Garcia, assistant dean for diversity recruitment
University of Arkansas

Allan Hatch, Black Graduate Student Association
University of Arkansas

Greneda Johnson, director of diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging
School of Law


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