In the face of oppression and staggering liabilities, the first Black students to attend Florida State University forged a cultural and historical legacy that lives on today. Their journey, which began in 1962, is a historical record of a people of talent … of radiating spirit … and boundless resilience.
Maxwell Courtney, a Tallahassee native and a 1962 graduate of the original Lincoln High School, was the first Black undergraduate to attend and graduate from what was then a segregated Florida State University in Tallahassee. Maxwell Courtney’s willingness to be the first Black undergraduate student to enroll and the courage he displayed during this era of intense racial division and segregation is to be commended. He made a choice to put himself at risk so those who came after him could attend this University free from discrimination and racial intolerance. His efforts and the efforts of many others paved the way so that we can proudly call the Florida State University our alma mater.
Maxwell Courtney was 16 years old when he enrolled in FSU and he graduated cum laude in 1965 at age 19, with a degree in mathematics and minors in French and English. He later earned a master’s degree from the University of Maryland. His career carried him to Washington, D.C. where he worked as a systems management consultant to the Smithsonian Institute. He met with an untimely death in a boating accident in 1975. Lest we forget his accomplishments and the significant place he and many others hold in Florida State University history.
Mr. Courtney’s representation is depicted on the Integration statue in the FSU Student Union, which serves as a permanent tribute to all those young men and women who helped make FSU rich in diversity, academically, athletically and socially. Also depicted on Integration are Fred Flowers (the first African American to wear a FSU athletic uniform) and Doby Flowers (FSU’s first African American Homecoming Queen). (Click HERE to download information on Integration Statue Dedication.)
As a tribute to his academic achievement, courage and determination, the Florida State University Black Alumni Association proudly dedicated its room at the FSU Alumni Center in honor of Maxwell Courtney, on Friday, October 30, 2009.
Often overlooked in FSU’s history, Maxine Thurston a Black graduate student in the School of Social Work started the same time as Maxwell Courtney, Fall 1962. A native of Fernandina Beach, Florida, Maxine received her bachelor’s degree from Indiana University. She received her master’s degree in Social Work from FSU in 1964. Maxine Thurston-Fischer is the president of the Thurston Group, a Miami-based consulting firm.
Jacquelyn Dupont-Walker, Carmena Greene Bostic and Lionel Starks followed Maxwell Courtney to Florida State University in 1963. Jacquelyn Dupont-Walker and Carmena Greene Bostic are Tallahassee natives and Lionel Starks was from Central Florida. Jacquelyn Dupont-Walker was the first Black female undergraduate to graduate from FSU, receiving her degree in Social Work in 1966. Jacquelyn lives in Los Angeles, California where she was the founding president of the Ward Economic Development Corporation. Carmena Greene Bostic received her degree in Spanish in 1967. Carmena is a long-time Miami resident who retired from IBM and continues to work as a school teacher. Due to continuous harassment and concerns about discrimination, Lionel withdrew prior to graduating and enlisted in the military. Lionel now lives in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Ronald L. Williams, also a Tallahassee native and Carmena Greene Bostic’s cousin, enrolled in FSU in 1964, and received his degree in Physics in 1969. Ronald is a Physics professor at the Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University.
Fred Flowers as a member of the baseball team was the university’s first Black athlete. He earned a bachelor’s degree in 1969 and a master’s in 1973 from Florida State University, and is now an attorney and owner of the Flowers Law Firm in Tallahassee.
Doby Flowers, Fred’s younger sister, was the university’s first Black Homecoming Queen (1970). She earned a bachelor’s degree in 1971 and a master’s in 1973 from Florida State University. She later earned a certificate in executive management from Harvard University and is now the manager of the Flowers Law Firm and a national consultant. Fred and Doby Flowers are also Tallahassee natives.
Lenny Hall became the first Black basketball player recruited in 1966. He was followed in 1968 by Calvin Patterson in football. Although Calvin Patterson attended FSU he never got the opportunity to play on the football field. James “JT” Thomas, Jr. came to FSU in 1969 and was the first Black football athlete to play for FSU. “JT” Thomas was also FSU’s first Black football All-American and the first Black football player to graduate from FSU, when he received his degree in business in 1973.