Missouri State University Makes Further Amends to Its First Black Applicant Who Was Rejected Because of Her Race

In 1950, Mary Jean Price graduated second in her high school class in Springfield, Missouri. At the time, higher education in Missouri was racially segregated. She could not afford to travel and live on campus at historically black Lincoln University in Jefferson City, so she applied to Southwest Missouri State College in Springfield. She was the first black student to apply to the college, which is now Missouri State University.

But Price never received the courtesy of a reply from the college. Records show that college administrators were well aware of the application and plotted legal strategies to keep her from enrolling in the all-white institution.

Price never went to college. She worked as an elevator operator and later married and had children. In 2009 she retired from her job at the Springfield Discovery Center. She had worked there for eight years as a custodian.

Sixty years after Mary Jean Price sent in her application, this past spring Missouri State University gave her an honorary degree. Now the university has established the Mary Jean Price Walls Multicultural Scholarship program.

Today there are 600 black students enrolled at Missouri State.