Winthrop Firsts

First African-American Students

Cynthia Plair Roddey ’67

April 6, 1940 - Present

Cynthia Plair Roddey ’67Cynthia Plair Roddey ’67 was Winthrop’s first African-American graduate student, and she is widely acknowledged as the first African-American woman to enroll at the university. She came to Winthrop in the summer of 1964 with two bachelor’s degrees from Johnson C. Smith University, where she worked as an assistant in the library. Her connections to Winthrop run deep: Her grandfather helped build the university. Dr. Roddey, a married teacher with two children at the time of her enrollment, went on to earn her M.A.T. in library science at Winthrop.

Dr. Roddey, the daughter of two educators, later earned a doctorate in ministry. She has worked in education – every grade from kindergarten through college level – for more than 30 years.

Read more about Cynthia Plair Roddey.


Delores Johnson Hurt ’68

Sept. 27, 1946 - Present

Delores Johnson Hurt ’68Delores Johnson Hurt ’68 was chosen by the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, in consultation with her high school guidance counselors, to be one of the first undergraduate African-American students to enroll at Winthrop. She is the Columbia area applicant mentioned in historical documents who not only met Winthrop’s entrance requirements but had test scores “well above” the Winthrop average. Her application was one of three received by Winthrop in the spring of 1964 which spurred the administration, in consultation with the Board of Trustees, to admit African-American students without a formal court order.

Hurt lived with Rock Hill native Arnetta Gladden Mackey ’67 in Roddey Hall and later lived in Winthrop’s French House on College Avenue for a semester.

Read more about Delores Johnson Hurt.


Arnetta Gladden Mackey ’67

March 10, 1947 - Aug. 8, 2009

Arnetta Gladden Mackey ’67Rock Hill resident Arnetta Gladden Mackey ’67 was one of the first African-American undergraduate students to enroll at Winthrop. Mackey, who earned a B.A. in biology, roomed with Delores Johnson Hurt ’67, the first African-American undergraduate to be admitted to Winthrop. Mackey came to Winthrop as 17-year-old graduate of Emmett Scott High School.

Mackey retired as a plant manager at Hoescht Celanese, also known as Celanese Corporation, a Fortune 500 global technology and specialty materials company, after 30 years of service.

Mackey remained very involved in her community, serving as a member of the Holy Jerusalem Deliverance Center. She volunteered with Habitat for Humanity, the Children’s Attention Home and Senior Citizens Tax Service. Mackey also was a former board member of the Museum of York County.


Sue Frances Meriwether Steed ’67

May 4, 1946 - Present

Sue Frances Meriwether Steed ’67Sue Frances Meriwether Steed ’67 was the first African-American student to earn a degree at Winthrop. She transferred to Winthrop in the fall of 1964 from Tennessee Agricultural & Industrial State University (now Tennessee State University). Steed credits her father, the late Wilhelm Meriwether, with enrolling her at Winthrop, where she roomed with Delores Johnson Hurt ’68 and the late Arnetta Gladden Mackey ’67. Steed’s brother, Wilhelm Delano Meriwether, was the first African-American student accepted into Duke University School of Medicine.

Steed earned a B.A. in biology at Winthrop and intended to pursue a degree in physical therapy. However, after graduation she took a job teaching at Laing High School in Mount Pleasant, which led to a 39-year teaching career.

Read more about Sue Frances Meriwether Steed.

First African-American Alumni Trustee

Sheila McMillan ’73, Esq.

Jan. 30, 1953 – Present

Sheila McMillan ’73, Esq.Sheila McMillan, Esq., was Winthrop’s first African-American alumni and first African-American female trustee. She came to Winthrop in 1970 after graduating from Central High School. During her years at Winthrop, McMillan was president of the Association of Ebonites, Winthrop’s first and oldest African-American student organization, as well as a Resident Assistant in Bancroft Hall.

She graduated with a degree in history in 1973 and taught junior and high school history. She went on to earn a master’s degree from UNC Charlotte in 1975 and a juris doctorate from the University of South Carolina School of Law in 1979. While in law school she became the first woman president of the USC chapter of the Black American Law Students Association. In addition to her service on the Winthrop University Board of Trustees from 1983-91, she also served as a state officer of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.

Read more about Sheila McMillan.

First African-American Faculty Member

Dr. Annabelle Spann Boykin

May 8, 1927 – July 20, 2015

Dr. Annabelle Spann BoykinDr. Annabelle Spann Boykin was Winthrop’s first African-American faculty member to join the institution in 1972.

A part-time professor of home economics education in the School of Home Economics, Dr. Boykin received a bachelor’s degree in home economics education from South Carolina State College in 1946, a master’s degree in home economics education from Cornell University in 1951 and a Ph.D. in home economics education from the University of Wisconsin in 1958. She pursued post-doctoral work in home economics administration at Columbia University in 1963.

Read more about Dr. Annabelle Spann Boykin.

First African-American Faculty Member to be Granted Tenure

Dr. Bessie Moody-Lawrence

Feb. 14, 1941 - Dec. 19, 2012

Dr. Bessie Moody-LawrenceThe Honorable Dr. Bessie Moody-Lawrence was Winthrop’s first African-American faculty member to be granted tenure. She also was the first African-American professor to serve as a state legislator.

An education professor who retired from Winthrop in 2004, Dr. Moody-Lawrence earned a bachelor’s degree from South Carolina State College in 1962 and taught science in the Spartanburg school district. She earned a certificate of education in 1967 and a master’s in education degree in 1971, both from Winthrop, and later a doctorate from the University of South Carolina.

Read more about Dr. Bessie Moody-Lawrence.

First Faculty Member Hired to Teach African-American Courses

Dr. Dorothy Perry Thompson

June 25, 1944 – Jan. 4, 2002

Dr. Dorothy Perry ThompsonDr. Dorothy Perry Thompson was Winthrop’s first faculty member hired to teach African-American courses. The professor of English also taught African-American literature, American Literature, poetry and creative writing.

Dr. Thompson received her B.A. in English from Allen University in 1968 and her Master of Arts in Teaching from the University of South Carolina in 1974. After teaching in the public high schools, including Riverside High (Greer), Lower Richland High (Hopkins) and Dreher High (Columbia), she returned to USC, where in 1987, she became the second African American in the school’s history to earn a Ph.D. in English and the first African American to complete a creative writing dissertation there, under the direction of the late poet and novelist James Dickey.

Read more about Dr. Dorothy Perry Thompson.

First African-American Professional Staff

Dorothy Barber

Aug. 16, 1950 - Present

Dorothy BarberDorothy Barber joined the staff in 1970 as a clerk typist in Dacus Library. She has held various positions within the library over the last 44 years, including accounting clerk III, accounting tech I, library technical assistant IV and her most recent position as executive support specialist. She retired in 2008 but still works part time in the library. In 2015, Barber will reach a milestone of 45 years as a Winthrop employee.

A graduate of Finley Senior High School, Barber earned an associate’s degree in business from York Technical College.

Barber, who came to Winthrop after Mackey, Roddey and Steed graduated, called her hiring a “humbling” experience. “It’s humbling to know that there were others who opened the door for us and for Winthrop students,” said Barber.


Ellen Owens

Dec. 29, 1947 - Present

Ellen OwensEllen Owens joined the staff in 1970 as a clerk typist in the Dacus Library Serials Department. The Chester, S.C., native has moved up the ranks in her more than four decade-long career, earning promotions from library technical assistant III to library technical assistant IV to her current position as library specialist. July 2015 will mark a milestone for Owens: 45 years as a Winthrop employee.

The Finley Senior High School graduate also earned a bachelor’s degree in English from Johnson C. Smith University.

Owens, who retired in 2008 but continues to work part time in Dacus Library, said she’s continued her work at Winthrop because she enjoys interacting with students. “It feels good to be a part of Winthrop,” said Owens.

First African-American Trustee

Dr. Hudson L. Barksdale, Sr.

Unknown – April 13, 1986

Dr. Hudson L. Barksdale, Sr.The Honorable Dr. Hudson L. Barksdale, Sr., was Winthrop’s first African-American member of the Board of Trustees, named to the board in January 1981. He was appointed by the Education and Public Works Committee of the S.C. House of Representatives. The State newspaper reported at the time that “Rep. Eugene C. Stoddard, D-Laurens, committee chairman, said the appointment would be timely in view of criticism by the U.S. Education Department about lack of black representation on state governing boards.”

A native of Barksdale, Laurens County, S.C., Dr. Barksdale was a longtime educator and graduate of South Carolina State College and of Teachers College, Columbia University. He received an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters in 1982 from Allen University. Residing in Spartanburg all of his adult life, Dr. Barksdale contributed much as an educator, a community leader and legislator.

Read more about Dr. Hudson L. Barksdale.

First African-American Student Body President

Bruce Prentiss Woods

Sept. 27, 1968 - Present

Bruce Prentiss WoodsBruce Prentiss Woods ’90, ’95, was the first African-American student elected as president of Winthrop’s Student Government Association in spring 1989. During his time as student body president, he served as the student representative on Winthrop’s Board of Trustees.

He earned his B.A. in history and political science (double major) and a M.A.T. in secondary education. After graduation, he volunteered with Winthrop’s Alumni Career Network. Woods later earned a master’s degree in French history at Vanderbilt University; a degree in social studies education from the University of Georgia; and a certificate in Middle Eastern history from Exeter College, University of Oxford.

Read more about Bruce Prentiss Woods.