Delores Johnson Hurt '68 took a week recently to visit the Louise Pettus Archives at Dacus Library to learn about the historic circumstances under which she attended Winthrop.
Hurt was the first of two African-American high school students admitted to the all-white college as undergraduates in 1964. She and the late Arnetta Gladden Mackey of Rock Hill attended the college with little of the fanfare that took place elsewhere around the country during integration. Earlier, Winthrop had accepted as a graduate student Cynthia Roddey ’67, who is widely acknowledged as the university’s first African-American student.
As Hurt read the official papers this summer, memories of the experience flooded back.
“How young I was,” she said of being 18 years old and facing what she knew to be a challenge. “It has taken me this long to go and look at what happened, but living in Charlotte, so close to Rock Hill, gave me incentive.”
Hurt was the daughter of a military serviceman and attended C.A. Johnson High School in Columbia, S.C. She had lived in France for three years and was accustomed to an integrated setting. The Legal Defense Fund of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People paid her college expenses.
At Winthrop, she said she felt no discrimination from the teachers. “But I had little or no interaction with many of the students,” said Hurt.
She and Mackey were given a suite in Roddey Hall, which contributed to their isolation. Hurt spent much of her free time at Winthrop studying. However, she lived in the university’s French House on College Avenue for a semester and hosted a radio show on WCRO Radio. She also served as vice president of the Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society and was chosen as a junior marshal for having one of the top grade point averages in her class. Her senior year, Hurt received a Fulbright Scholarship to study for a year at the University of Nice in France.
She later earned a master's degree in broadcast journalism at the Columbia University School of Journalism, then worked as a reporter in New York City and as a news writer for CBS Radio Network. Hurt returned to the South, where she was hired as one of the first black reporters at WIS-Radio in Columbia, S.C., and taught journalism at Benedict College.
Over the next two decades, Hurt was an entrepreneur, owning a restaurant in Key West with her husband and then helping her mother with a commercial bakery business that sold cakes to major area grocery stores.
She moved to Charlotte, N.C., to be closer to her daughter and has taught French for the past four years, first at Olympic High and now at West Charlotte High School.
“I am honored to be a part of Winthrop's history,” Hurt said.