University of Arkansas announces Silas Hunt Legacy Award recipients

Courtesy photos
Four African Americans to be recognized for pioneering spirit

This year, the University of Arkansas will recognize an attorney, an educator, a coach and a nurse as the four outstanding individuals to receive the Silas Hunt Legacy Award, which recognizes African Americans for their significant achievements or contributions to the community, the state and the nation.

Throughout the 2011-2012 academic year, the recipients will interact with students while participating in a variety of on-campus conversations, lectures and other community events. The year of celebration will conclude with a black-tie event to be held in April 2012.

The newest class of Silas Hunt Legacy Award recipients are:

  • Dr. Roderick McDavis, Athens, Ohio
  • Mr. C.C. Mercer, L.L.B.’55, Little Rock
  • Mr. Nolan Richardson, Fayetteville
  • Ms. Marjorie Wilkins Williams, B.S.’59, San Antonio, Texas

The Silas Hunt Legacy Award was created by the university in 2005 and first awarded in 2006. This year’s recipients were nominated and selected by a volunteer selection committee of University of Arkansas faculty, students, professional staff and former recipients.

“We are pleased to add these four names to the list of Silas Hunt Legacy Award honorees,” said Chancellor G. David Gearhart. “They embody the spirit of Silas Hunt. The door he first opened, they have helped open wider for others. They have touched lives throughout their careers but also have made an indelible mark on our university community.”

On Feb. 2, 1948, Silas Hunt became the first black student in modern times to attend a major Southern public university when he was admitted without litigation into the University of Arkansas School of Law. Hunt, who grew up in Texarkana, was a veteran of World War II and earned his undergraduate degree at Arkansas Agricultural, Mechanical and Normal College, now the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff. Hunt died of tuberculosis in the spring of 1949 before finishing his law degree.
“We are thrilled to have the opportunity to pay tribute to these alumni and friends as they join a special society of previous Silas Hunt honorees,” said Charles Robinson, vice provost for diversity affairs. “In the 63 years since Silas Hunt was first admitted, the university’s view of diversity and inclusion has been augmented and today is at the forefront of our recruitment efforts. While we have come a long way in six decades, there is still much work to be done to attract and retain students, faculty and staff who will enhance our diversity. This award provides us with an opportunity to honor the past, focus on the present and dream of the future.”

About the 2012 Silas Hunt Legacy Award recipients:


Roderick McDavis
Roderick J. McDavis was dean of the University of Arkansas College of Education and Health Professions and professor of counselor education from 1989-1994, making him the first African American dean in the university’s history. He served as the director of the Arkansas Academy for Leadership Training and School-Based Management from 1992-1994. He served as dean of the College of Education and professor of education at the University of Florida from 1994-1999, then as provost and vice president for academic affairs and professor of education at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Va., from 1999-2004. On July 1, 2004 he became Ohio University’s 20th president, making him only the second university alumnus to lead the university as president. A native of Dayton, Ohio, McDavis received a bachelor’s degree in social sciences in secondary education from Ohio University in 1970, a master’s degree in student personnel administration from the University of Dayton in 1971, and a doctorate in counselor education and higher education administration from the University of Toledo in 1974.

He was a professor of education in the department of counselor education at the University of Florida from 1974-1989 and an associate dean of the graduate school and minority programs at the University of Florida from 1984-1989.

McDavis has served as chair of the board of directors of the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education. He has authored or co-authored chapters in books, monographs and articles in professional journals and other publications.
McDavis has served as a consultant and keynote speaker for universities, community colleges, public school systems, human service agencies, professional associations, community organizations and churches. In 1995, he was named Person of the Year in Education by The Gainesville Sun. He was named the 1996 Outstanding Alumnus of the Gladys W. and David H. Patton College of Education and Human Services at Ohio University. In 2008, McDavis founded The Interlink Alliance, a coalition of Historically Black Colleges and Universities and Ohio University, for the purpose of developing and preparing African American students to learn, live and lead in the 21st century


C.C. Mercer, L.L.B.’55
Christopher Columbus “C.C.” Mercer is one of only two living members of the university’s “Six Pioneers,” the first six African American students to enroll at the University of Arkansas School of Law. After graduating from law school in 1955 and passing the bar exam with the highest score in his group, he went on to play a pivotal role in the integration of Little Rock Central High School. He has served Arkansas as an attorney for more than 50 years, known for often representing clients of modest means who otherwise would not have been able to afford a lawyer of his caliber.

During his distinguished career, Mercer served as co-director of the Arkansas Council on Human Relations, field secretary for the NAACP, and deputy prosecutor for Pulaski and Perry counties – the first African American to hold that position in the South. He recently celebrated his 57th year of practicing law.

Mercer has helped move the dialog in Arkansas and at the University of Arkansas past questions of integration into a discussion of inclusion.

Because Mercer and others opened the door to African Americans at the University of Arkansas School of Law, hundreds of people of color have been able to follow in their footsteps. While Mercer’s legacy of excellence includes legal luminaries such as former Secretary of Transportation Rodney Slater, his legacy is perhaps best embodied by the many diverse lawyers who quietly and effectively represent their clients in Arkansas and across the country.

He was awarded and honorary Doctor of Laws degree by the University of Arkansas at commencement this past May.


Nolan Richardson
Legendary University of Arkansas basketball coach Nolan Richardson was born in El Paso, Texas. He played basketball at Texas Western College (now the University of Texas at El Paso) and was coached for two years by future Basketball Hall of Famer Don Haskins.

Coach Richardson began his coaching career at Bowie High School in El Paso, Texas. He then moved to Western Texas College, where he won the National Junior College championship in 1980. He was the head coach at Tulsa from 1981 to 1985, leading Tulsa to the NIT championship in 1981. In 1985, Richardson became the head coach at the University of Arkansas, where he gained national recognition.

Richardson took the University of Arkansas to the Final Four three times, losing to Duke in the semifinals in 1990, winning the National Championship in 1994 against Duke, and losing in the Championship game to UCLA in 1995. He was named the National Coach of the Year in 1994. His teams typically played an up tempo game with intense pressure defense – a style that he termed “40 Minutes of Hell.” He won more games as than any other basketball coach in Arkansas history, compiling a 389-169 record in 17 seasons. Coach Richardson is the only head coach to win a Junior College National Championship, the NIT, and the NCAA Tournament.

Coach Richardson was raised in El Paso’s “Segundo Barrio” or “Second Ward,” and speaks Spanish fluently. From 2005 to 2007, he served as the head coach of the Panamanian National Team. In March 2007, Richardson was named as the head coach of the Mexican National Team. In 2009, Coach Richardson assumed the head coaching position for the WNBA Tulsa Shock and stepped down this past summer.


Marjorie Wilkins Williams, B.S.’59
Marjorie Wilkins Williams was one of the three black students first officially admitted as undergraduates at the University of Arkansas in 1955. She received her Bachelor of Science in nursing from the University of Arkansas in 1959 and a master’s degree in guidance and counseling from Troy State University in 1972. In 1977, she earned a Master of Science degree in nursing from the University of Texas Health Science Center.

She worked as a professor of nursing for San Antonio College for 30 years, served on the School of Nursing faculty at Troy State University, and worked as a general staff and operating-room nurse.

Williams was a member of the Texas Black Professionals in Higher Education, Who’s Who in Nursing, Who’s Who in Nursing Education, and the Texas Black Nurses Association. She served as chairperson, Allied Health Division, Texas Community College Teachers Association. She has received the Excellence in Nursing Award and Alamo Community College Service Award. She enjoys reading, bridge, league bowling and traveling.
Williams is married to William Franklin Williams, also an alumnus of the University of Arkansas (M.S.E.’56). They have two children and two grandchildren.

To date, the university has honored 16 people with the Silas Hunt Legacy Award. Their names are engraved on a plaque, which hangs in the Silas Hunt Memorial Room of the Arkansas Union. Previous recipients are:

· Dr. Johnetta Cross Brazzell
· Mr. Ronnie Brewer
· Mr. Gerald Jordan (B.A. 1970)
· Dr. Lonnie Williams (B.S.B.A. 1978, M.Ed. 1984, Ed.S. 1991, Ed.D. 2001)

· Mr. Gerald Alley (B.S.B.A. ’73)
· Dr. Margaret Clark (M.A. ’68, Ed.D. ’78)
· Mr. Randall Ferguson (B.S.B.A. ’74)
· The Honorable George W. Haley (LL.B. ’52, J.D. ’67)
· Mr. E. Lynn Harris (B.A. ’77)
· Dr. Edith Irby Jones (B.S.M. ’52, M.D. ’52)
· Dr. Bobby W. Jones (B.S. ’84)
· Ms. Janis Kearney (B.A. ’77)
· Dr. Gordon Morgan (M.A. ’56)
· The Honorable Rodney Slater (J.D. ’80)