2015 News and Events

Bridwell Library Exhibition Highlights First Five African-American Graduates of Southern Methodist University

 

May 4, 2015

 First Five African American Graduates - Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University SMU - Bridwell Library Exhibition Sixtieth 60th Anniversary - title page (small)

DALLAS (SMU) – Bridwell Library at Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University announces an exhibition highlighting the first five African-Americans to graduate from Southern Methodist University. The exhibition celebrates the distinguished accomplishments of five Perkins alumni on the occasion of the sixtieth anniversary of graduation: A. Cecil Williams, James V. Lyles, James A. Hawkins, John W. Elliott, and Negail R. Riley. The five received their degrees through Perkins School of Theology on May 30, 1955.

The exhibition, which runs May 1 through July 10, 2015, will be in the foyer at the main entry of Bridwell Library.

 First Five African American Graduates - Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University SMU - Bridwell Library Exhibition Sixtieth 60th Anniversary - photo (small)
(l-r) James A. Hawkins, John W. Elliott, 
Negail R. Riley, A. Cecil Williams,
 and James V. Lyles

“John Wesley Elliott, James V. Lyles, Arthur Hawkins, Negail Rudolph Riley, and Cecil Williams helped Perkins School of Theology to lead the way in the desegregation of the University as the five became the first African-Americans to be admitted as degree candidates and to graduate from Southern Methodist University,” said Perkins School of Theology Dean William B. Lawrence. “These remarkable ministers had a global impact in a variety of ministry settings. We are pleased that this exhibition provides an opportunity to honor courageous leaders who have exemplified faithfulness and excellence in ministry.”

Both of the two living graduates featured in the exhibition are past recipients of the Perkins School of Theology Distinguished Alumnus Award. Rev. Dr. James Lyles received the Distinguished Alumnus Award in 2015. Rev. Dr. Cecil Williams was named Perkins School of Theology Distinguished Alumnus in 1996. Additionally, SMU conferred upon Williams an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree in 1997 and a Distinguished Alumnus Award – the highest honor the University bestows upon its graduates – in 2009. A new preaching lab was named in Williams’ honor as part of the construction of the Elizabeth Perkins Prothro Hall completed in 2009.

For more information, contact the exhibition curator, Bridwell Archivist Tim Binkley, 214.768.1989.

For more information about Bridwell Library: www.smu.edu/bridwell, 214-768-3483, bridadmin@smu.edu.

Information about public parking at SMU (including maps of the SMU campus): smu.edu/maps

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Perkins School of Theology, founded in 1911, is one of five official University-related schools of theology of The United Methodist Church. Degree programs include the Master of Divinity, Master of Sacred Music, Master of Theological Studies, Master of Arts in Ministry, and Doctor of Ministry, as well as the Ph.D., in cooperation with The Graduate Program in Religious Studies at SMU’s Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences.