DALLAS (CBS 11 NEWS) – Six decades after Heman Sweatt made history as the first black law student at UT Austin, his descendants in Dallas are watching the Supreme Court closely for another landmark decision.
The high court Wednesday will consider whether the University of Texas should consider race as a factor in admissions.
In 1946, a postal worker from Houston, named Heman Sweatt, applied to the University of Texas Law School.
The university president, at the time, found him “duly qualified for admission… except for the fact that he is a negro.”
“At that time in order for a black to go to graduate school, law school, medical school, you had to leave the state of Texas,” said his great nephew, Heman Sweatt II from his home in Dallas.
His great uncle sued and won, when the US Supreme Court ruled UT had to allow him to enroll.
“I think it was a major victory for the education of black people and minorities as a whole,” said Sweatt.
Wednesday, the university will once again defend its consideration of race before the Supreme Court.
This time, though, the plaintiff is a 22 year old white woman from Sugarland, Texas, named Abigail Fisher.
The university rejected her application, while she claims, it accepted those of her classmates who had lower test scores and less participation in extracurricular activities.
“I was taught from the time I was a little girl that any kind of discrimination was wrong,” she said.
In a reversal of roles, the Sweatt family this time is siding the university, even filing a brief with the Supreme Court expressing its support.
“I personally don’t feel we have reached a point as a society where affirmative action is not needed,” said Sweatt.
In Fall of 2011, African Americans made up only four percent of UT students, but 12 percent of the state population.
Sweatt says, he does hope for the day race won’t matter.
But, he is still waiting for it.
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