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Del Mar College is one of the first colleges in the south to integrate the campus for blacks, prior to the Supreme Court decision of Brown v. Board of Education. This is in part to the community having been fairly desegregated prior to the unanimous decision by the school, with black and white women forming a community group in the first local branch of the YWCA, and in part to the swift and non-violent civil rights advocates of the time and place, such as Dr. Henry Hall Boyd and NAACP executive secretary, Walter White. The local black college at the time was far from equal and did not have equivalent programs to Del Mar College and this clear separate but not equal situation between the two schools provided a clear answer to the desegregation of Del Mar College.


  • This is a Photograph of Walter Francis White – Executive Secretary of the NAACP from 1931 to 1955. He gave a speech in Corpus Christi following the desegregation of Del Mar college.
  • Photograph showing one of the education buildings on the campus of Del Mar College. The pictured edifice is known as the Memorial Classrooms building, and is still in use today by faculty and students more than 75 years later.
  • A photograph of a vintage pennant for Del Mar University from the 1950’s. It is a special edition from the Rose Bowl.
  • Dr. Henry Boyd Hall was a dentist, community leader and civil right activist in Corpus Christi and vital to the peaceful desegregation of Del Mar College.
  • This postcard shows Chaparral Street looking north, at the time one of the main and busiest streets in the city and the location of the original YWCA branch of Corpus Christi,

Desegregation was a point of contention in the United States in the late forties to early fifties, with many advocates supporting the immediate integration of schools and many vocal opponents considering mass integration to be a disaster. Georgia's governor Talmadge went so far as to claim that the compulsory mixing could result in "more confusion, disorder, riots, and bloodshed from anything since the War between the States." While desegregation was never completely smooth in any state, in part due to the violent and racist nature of anti-segregationists,  the negative effects in the Corpus Christi area turned out to be far less drastic than had been once claimed. Del Mar College was an early adopter of desegregation, opting to make its campus equally accessible to African-Americans since 1952, a year and four months before the Supreme Court mandate of Brown v. Board of Education.

The desegregation of Del-Mar began with the first black students attempting to register: Clifford Vernell Smoots, Jo Ann Lawson, and Willie Andrew Miller. The local black college, Coles Junior College, did not provide them with the same level of education that whites would receive at Del Mar, and did not have the resources available to teach the same courses, even if they would have been provided. Lawson wanted to attend music classes, not offered at Coles, and Smoots wanted to learn mechanical drawing—which involved more supplies than Coles could afford, in direct contrast to Del Mar College, which was putting in new buildings and offering more classes to provide for the “true” community college experience and to entice more members of the community to join.

Henry Boyd Hall, a local civil rights activist,  and many other civil rights leaders, including Walter White of the NAACP, heard of the situation with the college and the black applicants. They argued that the facilities were separate but not equal, as the facilities at Coles were “by no stretch of the imagination equal to Del Mar College” and threatened to march on the campus if the students were not allowed to attend the college. Perhaps a result of not wanting negative publicity, the Board of Regents met and unanimously voted to desegregate the school as of the following semester, in September 1952.

As a community, black and white women had already formed the local YWCA together, and antiquated Jim Crow laws were hardly in effect in the Corpus Christi area. This solidarity between races spread to husbands of these women and helped to make the desegregation of Del Mar College a relatively peaceful endeavor, without major riots or interruptions to the school or classes. Students were generally supportive of the new black students in their integrated school, even as far as to come up with safer travel routes for potential school trips with black students that would not put them in the way of the harmful, still-legal, Jim Crow laws and ideologies elsewhere in Texas and the US South. Latino and white students welcomed their new classmates with a protective support, and the community’s acceptance of the ruling proved to be more open and kind than even the most optimistic thoughts from the Board of Regents and President E. L. Harvin. 

Primary Sources:

The Associated Press. 1965. “Negroes at Formerly White Schools Double.” Corpus Christi Caller Times. September 12.

"Del Mar Board Votes to Admit Negro Students." Corpus Christi Caller Times, 1952 July 22.

Henderson, Bruce. “Negroes, Whites Share Classrooms.” Big Spring Daily Herald. 1952 Dec 7.

Henderson, Bruce. “Many Texas Colleges, Including Del Mar, Now Admit Negroes.” Corpus Christi Caller Times. 1952 Dec 7.

Morse, Arthur D. “Del Mar Desegregation Commended.” Corpus Christi Caller Times. 1954 September 12.

Morse, Arthur D. “When Negroes Entered a Texas School.” Harper’s Magazine. 1954 September 1.

“Negroes Fail in Attempt to Enter Del Mar.” Corpus Christi Caller Times. 1952 June 3.

Richmond (Va) News-Leader. “A Few Things Harpers Neglected to Mention.” Corpus Christi Caller Times. 1954 September 12.

"Secretary of NAACP to Talk Here Saturday." Corpus Christi Caller Times. 1954 April 21.

“Texas Junior College Opens Doors to Race.” The Carolina Times (Durham, NC). 1952 August 9.

Toomer, Jeanette. “INTEGRATION IS ‘BIGGER AND BETTER’ IN TEXAS.” Ebony 11, no. 8: 115, 1956 June.

“True ‘Community College’ Longtime Goal of Del Mar.” Corpus Christi Caller Times. 1952 Feb 17.

"U.S. Supreme Court Sets Progress Pace." Ebony 10.3 (1955)

"When the Barriers Fall." Time 62, no. 9: 42. 1953 August 31.

Photos:

"Chaparral Street, Main business street of downtown Corpus Christi, Texas." 7PC-90. Mary and Jeff Bell Library - TAMUCC. https://rattler.tamucc.edu/images/dept/special/kilgore_postcards/7PC-90.jpg.

Del Mar College Postcard. Mary and Jeff Bell Library - TAMUCC. 1943. https://rattler.tamucc.edu/images/dept/special/kilgore_postcards/7PC-749.jpg

Parks, Gordon. 1942. Walter Francis White – Executive Secretary of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Library of Congress, June.

Secondary Sources:

“Black Students in Texas Desegregate Del Mar College 1951-1952.” Global Nonviolent Action Database. http://nvdatabase.swarthmore.edu/content/black-students-texas-desegregate-del-mar-college-1951-1952

Carmona, Roel G. “An Oral History of Del Mar College: Selected Interviews.” 1st ed. Del Mar College, 2003.

Dr. Henry Boyd Hall and the Desegregation of Blacks at Del Mar College. Corpus Christi Timeline. Corpus Christi Caller Times. http://www.corpuschristitimeline.com/1951_DrHenry_Boyd_Hall.html.

Glasrud Bruce A., O’Rear Jo, Scott, Gloria Randle, Venable Cecilia Gutierrez, Williams Henry J. "African Americans in Corpus Christi." Texas: Arcadia Publishing, 2012.

Shabazz, Amilcar. “Advancing Democracy: African Americans and the Struggle for Access and Equity in Higher Education in Texas.” 1st ed. U of NC Press, 2004.

Storey, John Woodrow and Kelley, Mary L. "Twentieth-Century Texas: A Social and Cultural History." Texas: University of North Texas Press, 2008.

Tumiel, Cindy. 1983. “H. Boyd Hall Led Fight on Segregation.” Corpus Christi Caller Times. 23 Jan.

Venable, Cecilia G. “Hall, Henry Boyd (1899-1974).” BlackPast.org. Web.

Winegarten, Ruthe. “Black Texas Women: 150 Years of Trial & Triumph.” Janet G. Humphrey, Freida Werden. 1st ed. U of T Press, 1995. p. 252-253