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John M. Craft, being welcomed back officially after competing in the 1972 Munich Olympics. (left to right) Tom Katsimpalis, EIU Athletics Director, Gilbert Fite, University President, John Craft and Maynard "Pat" O'Brien, EIU Track.

Mrs. Elizabeth Nash being sworn in as the first female and first African American Postmaster of Mattoon, Illinois, 1990.

Dr. Arlen Fowler was a professor of History at EIU from 1969-1976. He was also the founding director of African American Studies at EIU, and the first EIU professor to teach a course on blacks in America. He is now a retired professor of History, University of Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Cornerstone laying ceremony for 1968 addition to EIU Library: (left to right) first two individuals not identified; Quincy Doudna, President; Hobart F. Heller; B.J. Szerenyl; and Francis Pollard, Director of Library Science Program at EIU. Dr. Pollard was among the first African Americans to be hired at EIU.

Chris "Poke" Cobb, #30, running with the ball, c. 1978.

Chris "Poke" Cobb, # 30, EIU football player, receiving the Panther Award from a University official for a 1976 record-tying performance.

A black candidate, Diane Williams, received the highest number of votes in the contest, but because of a protest lodged on behalf of another, Karyl Buddemeier [a white student], Miss Williams' vote total was reduced as a penalty, and Miss Buddemeier was declared the homecoming queen. The alleged campaign violation which sparked the protest involved the placing of campaign materials supporting Miss Williams' candidacy in close proximity to the voting area— a practice expressly forbidden by student campaign regulation. (72)

Miss Williams' supporters claimed the campaign material could have been placed there to hurt her candidacy and the sponsors of Miss Buddemeier were of the view that whether the rule was unfair or not existed before the election. The delay in releasing the result of the voting totals was interpreted by black students as an attempt to deny Miss Williams the crown. Thus was seen as racially motivated. After a meeting by university officials, it was decided that there will be no homecoming queen for 1973. This no doubt left a sore spot on both sides.

These unfortunate incidents notwithstanding, African American students and faculty have thrived over the years on the campus of Eastern Illinois University as learners, athletes, administrators, researchers and teachers. Noteworthy examples include the fact that the university appointed the first black and female president, Dr. Carol Surles from March 1, 1999 to July 31, 2001. There is also the case of Dr. Teshome Abebe, Provost and Vice-President for Academic Affairs, from July 1, 1998 to September 7, 2000. In addition, the current chair of the university Board of Trustees, Dr. Nate Anderson of East St. Louis, Illinois is also an African American. Dr. Anderson, who is a graduate of Eastern was appointed to the Board in 1996, reappointed to a six-year term in 1999 and elected chair of the Board on April 16, 2001.

Outside the university a number of African Americans have made their mark. For example, Patricia Roberts Harris, a native of Mattoon had a lengthy career as a lawyer, educator, and public servant. Born on May 31, 1924 and raised in Mattoon and Chicago, Harris was both a national and international figure. She had her undergraduate education at Howard University. Following her graduation in 1945, she pursued graduate studies at the University of Chicago. From 1946 to 1949 she worked as a program director with the Young Women's Christian Association (YWCA) in Chicago. She married her husband, William B. Harris, a Howard University professor of law in 1955. In 1960 she graduated from George Washington University Law School. She was admitted to the District of Columbia bar and had a year's stint in the criminal division of the United States Department of Justice. (73) She was also associate dean of students and lecturer in law at Howard University. She rose to the rank of full professor and dean of the law school at Howard. Harris became the first African-American woman to hold a U.S. ambassadorial position when she was named U.S. ambassador to Luxembourg by President Lyndon Johnson in 1965. She was the first African-American woman to serve in a presidential cabinet post. President Jimmy Carter in 1977 appointed her as Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare. And in 1981 she returned to George Washington University as a law professor. Harris died of cancer in Washington D.C., on March 23, 1985. A United States Postal Service Black Heritage Stamp was issued in her honor in 2000.

Mrs. Roberta Williams was another Mattoon native who made her mark in Coles County. She graduated from Mattoon High School in 1939. Following her training at Summers Beauty School in Mattoon, she was registered as a Beauty Culturist in 1941. This qualified her to perform all phases of beauty culture, including permanent waving, hair shaping, hair coloring, facials and manicuring. Between 1955 and 1969 Mrs. Williams was owner and operator of Roberta's Beauty Salon, Mattoon, Illinois. From 1969 to 1983 she was an instructor in cosmetology at Lake Land College in Mattoon. For many years, Roberta was an active member of the Mattoon Hairdressers and Cosmetologists Association Affiliate #16. She served on many committees of the association. She also held the positions of secretary, treasurer, vice president and in 1970 was elected as the president of the association. Now retired, Mrs. Roberta Williams lives in Charleston.

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