50 years later: Rice U.’s first black student - Houston weather, traffic, news | FOX 26 | MyFoxHouston

50 years later: Rice U.’s first black student

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HOUSTON (FOX 26) -

He was the first African-American student accepted to Rice University, half a century ago. And today, he is back at Rice, teaching differential equations.

Professor Raymond Johnson was pursuing his doctorate in mathematics when he got into Rice's graduate program. In 1963, he attended classes. But he wasn't officially admitted until the following year because of a lawsuit that briefly blocked the school's integration.

"Eventually Rice got permission to enroll African-American students," said university president Dr. David Leebron, "because its charter originally said that it couldn't, like other institutions in the south. And so he became our first student."

And for a time, Raymond Johnson was Rice's only black graduate student. But Johnson says he didn't encounter a lot of the racial hostilities endured by African-Americans at other southern colleges.

"I felt like I was in a much more comfortable environment," Johnson said, "partly because it was graduate school. So I was just with other math students and they were all great. I still am friends with all the people in my class."

After earning his Ph.D. and going on to a 40-year career at the University of Maryland, Raymond Johnson returned to teach math at Rice. And he found a far more multicultural campus than the one he left in 1969.

"It's a very much more broadly diverse and accepting kind of a community now," Johnson said. "That was unimaginable to me back then."

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