Wendell Wilkie Gunn's Enrollment at Florence State.


Wendell W. Gunn's 1963 Registration at Florence State College.


Articles from local papers chronicling the September, 1963 enrollment at Florence State College of African-American student Wendell Wilkie Gunn, son of Mr. and Mrs. Marshall Gunn of Tuscumbia, AL.

Gunn, FSC's first black student, transferred to FSC from Tennessee State Agricultural and Industrial University at Nashville with a B average.

Wendell Gunn formally applied for admission to Florence State on July 29, 1963 but was turned down by President Ethelbert B. "EB" Norton on the grounds that state law didn't give him the authority to enroll black students at that time however US District Court Judge HH Grooms ordered Gunn's enrollment on August 28 and Norton and FSC officials immediately complied, vowing that Gunn would be treated no differently than any other student at the school. For his part Gunn was represented by noted civil rights attorney Fred Gray, who later said of Gunn's case that it was “the easiest civil rights case I ever had.”

Reporting on Gunn's registration, on September 10, the *Tri-Cities Daily* stated:

"Campus observers said today that the attitude and atmosphere at the college this week and last week appears to be no different from that experienced during any previous Fall. Attitude of college authorities and faculty members appear the same."

On September 19 the *Florence Herald* reported that:

"Gunn walked freely over the campus the first day but was escorted to his classes by college officials. Student reaction thus far has been indifferent and Gunn has suffered no harassment."

Two years later the Award to the Outstanding Student in Physics (highest average) went to Wilkie Gunn to a standing ovation from students and faculty. Wendell Gunn graduated from Florence State in 1965 with a BA in Chemistry and Mathematics.

Also in 1965 Gunn was accepted into the national honorary mathematics fraternity Kappa Mu Epsilon. Upon graduation he was employed by the Tennessee Pulp and Paper Co. in Counts, TN. After earning a master's in computers and finance at the University of Chicago in 1970 Gunn was hired as a marketing analyst for Chase Manhattan Bank in New York, and in 1972 he joined the faculty of Texas Southern University, Houston as instructor in marketing and finance.

From 1982 to 1984 Gunn served in the Regan Administration as Special Assistant to the President for Policy Development, Gunn served as Assistant Director for Commerce and Trade within the Office of Policy Development. He also served as Executive Secretary of the Cabinet Council on Commerce and Trade.

In 2017 Gunn returned to UNA as commencement speaker and in 2018 the Wendell Wilkie Gunn Commons was named in his honor. On July 11, 2019 Wendell Gunn was appointed a trustee of the University by Alabama Governor Kay Ivey.


*Florence Herald*

*Tri-Cities Daily.*


Nine Public Schools Integrated in State, *Florence Herald,* Thursday, September 5, 1963, p. 1.

Wendell Gunn's Registration Time Uncertain, *Tri-Cities Daily,* Tuesday, September 10, 1963, p. 1.

No Time Given for Registering of Wendell Gunn, *Tri-Cities Daily,* Wednesday, September 11, 1963, p. 1.

FSC Accepts first Negro Wednesday, *Tri-Cities Daily,* Thursday, September 12, 1963, pp. 1, 2.

Gunn Registered (photo), *Tri-Cities Daily,* Thursday, September 12, 1963, pp. 1.

1964 Florence State College Diorama Yearbook, p. 142 showing Wendell Gunn as a member of the university choir (back row, 6th from left).

Enlargement of 1964 Diorama photo.

First Black Graduates to a Standing Ovation, *Florence Times-Tri-Cities Daily* and *Flor-Ala,* "One Hundred Years of Progress, 1872-1972, p. 18.




*Tri-Cities Daily.*


Lee Freeman


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Nine Public Schools Integrated in State p I FH ThurS, Sept 5, 1963, p. 1 p 1.jpg
Nine Public Schools Integrated in State p III Nine Public Schools Integrated in State p I FH ThurS, Sept 5, 1963, p. 1 p.jpg
Wendell Gunn's Registration Time Uncertain TCD  Tuesday, September 10, 1963, p. 1..jpg
No Time Given for Registering Gunn TCD Wednesday,. September 11, 1963, p. 1..jpg
FSC Accepts First Negro Wednesday TCD Thursday, September 12, 1963, pp. 1 and 2..jpg
FSC Accepts First Negro Wednesday p II TCD Thursday, September 12, 1963, pp. 1 and 2..jpg
Gunn  Registered Photo TCD Thursday, September 12, 1963, p. 1..jpg
Diorama 64 Choir Photo Showing WW Gunn.jpg
Diorama 64 Choir Photo Enlargement Showing WW Gunn.jpg
First Black Graduates to Standing Ovation.jpg



*Florence Herald* *Tri-Cities Daily.*, “Wendell Wilkie Gunn's Enrollment at Florence State.,” Shoals Black History, accessed January 23, 2021, https://shoalsblackhistory.omeka.net/items/show/837.