Missouri State University announced the passing of Mary Jean (Price) Walls, the first African American student to apply to the school in 1950.
While she was qualified, having graduated as salutatorian of her class, she was denied admission to the school. She went on to have eight children and retire in 2009 as a janitor at a local science center.
“I was saddened to learn of the passing of Mary Jean Price Walls this week,” Missouri State President Clif Smart said in a statement. “She was denied admission to the university in 1950 because of the color of her skin. She is a reminder of our history of discrimination which we continue to work to overcome.”
Walls’ son, Terry, discovered what happened to his mother while he was attending Missouri State for a degree in criminology.
The school awarded Walls an honorary batchelor’s degree in 2010. In 2016, the multicultural resource center’s annex was named in her honor.
“I was sad to hear of [Walls’] passing. I believe her legacy will live on through the vast number of students who will benefit from the MRC Annex,” Dr. Dee Siscoe, vice president for student affairs, said in a statement.