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MSU’s first black student visits campus

February 5, 2014

From left, Catrell Johnson, a senior majoring in biological science with a concentration in pre-dentistry at MSU, speaks to Richard Holmes, MSU’s first African-American student, after a question-and-answer session with Holmes Tuesday at Colvard Student Union. (Photo by Steven Nalley, SDN)

Richard Holmes remembers many students treating him with kindness when, in 1963, he became the first African-American student to enroll at Mississippi State University. But he also remembers one of the few students who did not, and the irony that followed.

“I took microbiology, and my station (for a laboratory exercise) was in the back with a white student who said, ‘I refuse to be his partner,’” Holmes said. “The professor said, ‘If you refuse to be his partner, you can’t take the course.’ (During the exercise), he bent over, and his pretty blonde hair caught fire.”

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