University of Kentucky today honored its desegregation and the student who led the effort
by unveiling an historical marker. The event was part of UKs 50-year commemoration
of African Americans on campus.
"I am absolutely humbled by all that has gone on
here," said Lyman M. Johnson, son of Lyman T. Johnson whose memory and work the
marker declares. "Since his death a year and a half ago, Papa is beginning to loom
larger than in life."
The elder Johnson began the end to segregation at the University of Kentucky and all
the states higher education institutions when he applied to UK March 15, 1948.
Denied admission to the universitys Lexington campus because of his race, Lyman T.
sued. On March 30, 1949, he won and became the first African-American student to attend
classes on the campus of UK.
"I was very little when all this happened," Lyman M. recalled. "All I
knew was there was a lot of commotion going on. I didnt quite understand it."
The dedicated marker, which honors Lyman T. Johnson on one side and tells of the
universitys desegregation and 50-year celebration on the other, is a symbol of UK's
progress and should be a source of inspiration for all who see it, his son said.
"This is the opportunity to step up and say, "Hey this is what happened, now
go forward," he said. "My fathers favorite saying was Never let the
wagons roll back downhill. This marker is a symbolic blockade for anything coming
The dedication ceremony was attended by UK students, faculty and staff and people
from the Lexington community and African-American graduates of UK. A reception following
the marker dedication recognized and honored the alumni.
"I get a larger sense daily of the legacy my father left, and I am really
appreciative it is begin acknowledged here," said Lyman M. Johnson, who traveled from
his home in Pennsylvania to be at the UK dedication.
He joined UK president Charles T. Wethington Jr. in unveiling the marker.
"I can think of no one more worthy of having their name on the next historical
marker at UK than Lyman T. Johnson, who is being honored in events this year and next as
part of the 50th anniversary of African-Americans at UK," Wethington said.
The marker was made possible by the UK Student Development Council. The council
supports the marker program as a way for graduating classes to give back to UK. Through a
fund-raising program called Senior Challenge, the council funds the markers and an annual
undergraduate scholarship as a way to build pride in UK and maintain connections for
graduating seniors. The markers honor historic places, events or people at UK.
The Lyman T. Johnson marker dedication also included remarks from Gerald Smith, UK
associate professor of history and director of the African-American Studies and Research
Program, who outlined the importance of the occasion and its historical context.