On June 5, 1964, at the start of the second summer term, East Texas State College quietly integrated. Velma Waters and Charles Garvin were the first African American students to enroll. In the years to follow, the number of African American students would steadily increase.
Racial tensions on campus reached a peak in the spring of 1968 following the assassination of the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. On the night of the assassination as the world grieved, black students established the Afro-American Student Society of East Texas (ASSET), an activist group that helped usher unprecedented change across the campus and community. ASSET delivered a “Declaration of Rights” to President D. Whitney Halladay that included demands for increased African American faculty and administrators, fair and equal housing, access to campus employment, additional courses in African American Studies, and access to African American literature in the campus library. President Halladay promised to address their complaints.
Dr. David Arlington Talbot, a professor of guidance and counseling, became ET’s first African American faculty member in 1968. In addition to his role as a faculty member, Dr. Talbot became ET’s first affirmative action officer, and in effect, Dr. Halladay’s ombudsman with African American students. He was joined by Dr. J. Mason Brewer, the first visiting African American professor. Dr. Brewer was a renowned African American folklorist and developed new courses in black literature and folklore within the Department of Literature. In the early 1970s, Dr. Talbot and Dr. Brewer were joined by the first African American administrator on campus, Ivory Moore. Mr. Moore was hired by President McDowell to oversee the Minority Affairs office. He would later oversee Upward Bound, MACH III, and the Multi-Cultural Center.