Monty Bruell '79 (far left) and his classmates cross the quad as seventh graders in the fall of 1973.
For decades, Baylor has celebrated MLK Day as a "day on" to serve our community and learn more about the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. This year's celebration kicked off with a panel discussion and firsthand accounts of racial integration in the 1970s (watch video below).
The panel featured Monty Bruell '79, who was admitted as a seventh grader in 1973 as the first black student to attend and graduate from Baylor; classmate Ned Murray '79; Eddie Hart '80, who came the following year as a seventh grader; Rick Montague, who was the associate director of admissions at the time. The discussion was moderated by Tawambi Settles, who currently serves as Baylor's director of diversity and inclusion. Dr. Herb Barks '51 was headmaster at the time and was fully committed to admitting black students.
Also attending in 1974 as seventh graders were Wilford Ford '80, Grayland Hilt '80, and Julian Pouncy, who left after three years. Kevin Muhommad '81 (formerly Kevin Dobbs) enrolled in 1975. When Baylor became coed in the fall of 1985, Tara Wynn '89 became the school's first black female student and Shirlee Jackson '89 joined the class as a sophomre the following year.
“I didn’t know a place like Baylor existed. The eye opener really, for me, was not the racial thing, but the economic thing,” said Bruell, recalling that he lived in a modest apartment in East Chattanooga and was suddenly interacting socially with wealthy families from Lookout Mountain. “My grandmother worked as a housekeeper – as a maid – and my only experience in being in some of those homes and interacting with people was occasionally maybe as a child going to work with my grandmother.”
The hour-long discussion touched on a variety topics, and highlighted challenges from that era that still exist for students today. "I would like to see us be more receptive of everyone," said Hart. "There are eight billion people on this planet, what you think you know about yourself and about the world and what you believe is a tiny sliver of the full picture," added Murray. "Get to know, non-judgmentally, people different from you. And try and understand how they see -- and why they see -- the world the way they do."
In addition to the chapel event, juniors and seniors will work at 18 sites off campus including Battery Heights, the Chattanooga Zoo, Clinica Medicos, Glass Street trails, Red Bank LifeCare Center, Red Bank Pet Placement Center, Memorial Hospital, the Community Kitchen, among others.
Faculty-led discussion topics for freshmen and sophomores include sessions on "Lesser-known Figures of the Civil Rights Movement, "History of Hip Hop Music," “Strange Fruit," “I Have a Dream,” "Civil Rights in Chattanooga," and "Music of the Civil Rights Movement."
For photos from the day, click here.