As a part of its series in celebration of Black History Month, the Razorback Athletic Department is saluting Trailblazers from the African-American community who have attended the University of Arkansas. Several of the honorees in our series were also selected as Silas Hunt Legacy Award recipients recently.
Silas Herbert Hunt was born in Ashdown, Ark. His family moved to Oklahoma when Silas was young, but returned to Texarkana, Ark., when he was 14. Hunt took an interest in school, participating in many activities and graduating salutatorian of his class in 1941. He enrolled in Arkansas Agricultural, Mechanical and Normal College — now known as the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff — where his academic ability gained him recognition and financial aid.
Hunt was a veteran of World War II. The service took him away from his studies for 23 months. He was still recovering from wounds sustained during the Battle of the Bulge when he returned to AM&N to complete his degree in 1947.
On Feb. 2, 1948, Silas Hunt became the first black student to attend a major Southern public university in modern times when he was admitted to the University of Arkansas School of Law.
Historians who have written about Hunt state that he was the ideal candidate for breaking the color barrier at the University of Arkansas. His historic journey to Fayetteville was a courageous act, and the records show that he had a strong support network of friends. Early black students who followed him went on to accomplish even greater feats. But none of that diminishes the qualities and strength of character that embodied Hunt as an individual.
Hunt’s presence at the University was brief, sadly; he died from tuberculosis in the spring of 1949. But his presence left a significant legacy of possibility and inspiration to countless other African Americans in Arkansas and across the nation.
The University of Arkansas’ Office of University Relations provided the content of today’s salute. For more information on the Silas Hunt Legacy Award Event, please jump here. To learn more about the key moments in University of Arkansas history related to the African-American community, please jump here.