Black History Month is a time to celebrate black individuals, their achievements, and their influence. To celebrate, here are three influential black leaders and their ties to Western Carolina University.
Since its debut in 1889, the school had not accepted the enrollment of a black student until the summer of 1957, when Levern Hamlin Allen enrolled as the first African American student at Western Carolina College. She later attained her degree in special education and served on the WCU board of trustees. She graduated and continued to advance in her career when she got a call from former Chancellor John W. Bardo to announce that she was selected to receive an honorary doctorate of humane letters in 2006. But that is not where her history ended at WCU. In 2019 a 600-bed residence hall was constructed and named after the beloved alumni, allowing for even more students to join WCU’s community.
Many African American students and faculty continued to pave the way for black achievement at WCU after Levern Hamlin Allen, including Henry Logan and Dr. David Walton.
Henry Logan attended Western Carolina University from 1965-1968, where he became one of the most celebrated student-athletes that the campus had ever held. Logan became the first African American athlete at WCU (known then as Western Carolina College) and was the first African American basketball player to be recruited by and to play for a primarily white institution in the Southeastern region of the United States. After graduation, Logan was drafted in the fourth round of the 1968 NBA Draft by the Seattle SuperSonic, and Oakland Oaks in the ABA 1968 Draft. The following year, Logan was playing for the Oakland Oaks when they won the ABA Championship of 1969. After his basketball career, Logan was inducted into the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame as a member of the 37thclass and continues to hold almost every WCU scoring record in the school’s history, with a ranking of ninth on the all-time basketball scoring list.
In the Spring of 2020, Dr. David Walton was named as director of Western Carolina University’s new African American Studies minor program. Before teaching at WCU, Walton taught at the University of North Carolina at Pembroke, Michigan State University, Eastern Michigan University, and Oakland Community College in Michigan. Walton’s teaching experience was not the only thing that caught WCU’s eye. In 2005 he received his bachelor’s degree in African American Studies from Eastern Michigan University, followed by a master’s degree in U.S. and World History from Eastern Michigan University in 2008, and a doctorate in History and African American Studies from Michigan State in 2017. Dr. Walton has spent the first year of his position at WCU assessing the needs of the program and aiding in the selection of courses.
As of the 2020 academic year, Western Carolina University is home to 561 undergraduate and 108 graduate African American students increasing the number of enrolled African American students tenfold from its establishment. Western is proud of the strong-rooted history of Black Achievement produced by students and faculty and spend Black History month celebrating the legacy of such achievements.