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By Selena Stevens


"I get a larger sense daily of the legacy my father left, and I am really appreciative it is begin acknowledged here." --Lyman M. Johnson


April 22, 1999 – (Lexington, Ky.) –  The University of Kentucky today honored its desegregation and the student who led the effort by unveiling an historical marker. The event was part of UK’s 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 state’s higher education institutions when he applied to UK March 15, 1948. Denied admission to the university’s 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 didn’t quite understand it."

The dedicated marker, which honors Lyman T. Johnson on one side and tells of the university’s 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 father’s favorite saying was ‘Never let the wagons roll back downhill.’ This marker is a symbolic blockade for anything coming back downhill."

 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.

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