LeRoy Fraiser, who along with his brother and a high school student were among the first African-American students to challenge segregation at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, has died at the age of 80.

Family members confirmed Tuesday that Frasier, a long-time English teacher, suffered heart failure and died Dec. 29 at a hospital in New York City.

Frasier; his brother, Ralph; and John Lewis Brandon were students at Hillside High School in Durham when they took a chance and applied to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1955. They were rejected until a federal court judge ordered UNC-Chapel Hill to admit them.

The Associated Press notes that while four black students had been admitted to UNC’s law school when the Frasiers and Brandon applied, no black undergraduates had been accepted. Some students from the university came to the Durham Committee on Negro Affairs searching for students to challenge the school in light of the landmark Supreme Court ruling of Brown v. Board of Education in 1954.

UNC students found families whose jobs couldn’t be threatened. The Frasier brothers’ parents worked for North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Co., which was owned by blacks. Their uncle was the chief executive officer so “it was felt their employment was pretty secure,” Frasier said.

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In the decade since the Frasiers and Brandon attended UNC-Chapel Hill, the school has taken steps to make amends by inviting them to speak and naming scholarships after them.

School Chancellor Carol Folt said in an email that LeRoy Frasier “was a true pioneer and historic figure in Carolina’s history and his legacy of leadership, courage and self-sacrifice made a lasting impact on our university community. LeRoy’s contributions to Carolina will live on through our students who receive scholarships bearing his name.”

Source : Journal Now

Photo: Rudolph Faircloth/AP Photo