First Black Undergraduates Admitted
Theotis Robinson Jr., Charles Blair, and Willie Mae Gillespie were UT’s first admitted Black undergraduates in January 1961. Robinson, whose first attempt to apply to UT in 1960 was turned down because it was policy not to admit Black students, was elected as Knoxville’s first Black city council member from 1970 to 1977. He returned to UT in 1989 as a lecturer in political science and later joined the purchasing department staff. In 1992, Robinson became an administrative aide in the Office of Federal Affairs where he remained until 1999, when he transitioned into the same post within the Office of the Senior Vice President. In 2000, he became the vice president for diversity and equity for the UT System. Robinson retired from UT in 2014 and received an honorary doctorate in social work in 2019.