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On Tuesday, Feb. 1, hundreds of students, faculty, staff and community members marched from UT Knoxville’s Torchbearer statue to the Carolyn P. Brown Memorial University Center to mark the 50th anniversary of African-American undergraduate students being admitted to the university.

“Today marks an important milestone in our university’s history” said UT Knoxville Chancellor Jimmy G. Cheek.

“We today are commemorating the 50th anniversary of African-American undergraduate enrollment at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. In 1961, on a chilly January morning, our students climbed the Hill for their 8 a.m. classes. They were starting a new semester, new faculty, new classes, new opportunities and new challenges. But for three young students, it would be the start of a new world. Those students were Theotis Robinson Jr., Willie Mae Gillespie, and Charles Edgar Blair.”

Robinson spoke to a standing-room-only crowd at the UC Auditorium about his journey from being declined admission to UT, to being one of the first three African-American students admitted.