North Texas Daily

Joe Atkins, who helped desegregate UNT, dead at 79

Joe Atkins, who helped desegregate UNT, dead at 79

July 11
13:54 2015

Rhiannon Saegert | Senior Staff Writer

Joe L. Atkins, the man who sued UNT in 1955, leading to the school’s desegregation, died this week. He was 79.

He tried to transfer to UNT, which was still called North Texas College, a year after the Brown vs Board of Education ruling in 1955, but was denied entry. The NAACP represented him in the ensuing lawsuit. U.S. District Judge Joe Sheehy ordered the school to desegregate, and the first black graduate and undergraduate students attended UNT in February of 1956.

Atkins never attended UNT as an undergraduate, but he returned to work on master’s degree in education. He was later named an honorary member of the Progressive Black Student organization.

Atkins taught for Dallas Independent School District before becoming a realtor in 2007. In 2005, he was inducted into the African American Education Archives and History program Hall of Fame.

The A. Tennyson Miller and Joe L. Atkins Scholarship is named for Atkins and UNT’s first black doctoral student.

Services will be held July 12 at the Black and Clark Funeral Home in Dallas. A memorial will be held at noon the next day at Good Street Baptist Church in Dallas.

Editor’s Note: This story is not our full coverage on Mr. Atkins’ life and death. In our next issue of On The Record, we will share with you a full length feature on Mr. Atkins and his life. 

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1 Comment

  1. Rick
    Rick April 02, 13:17

    Good story Mr. Atkins was one of my teachers at James Madison High school. One of the main reason for me attending UNT

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