Assayer of Student Opinion.

The Prospector

Assayer of Student Opinion.

The Prospector

Assayer of Student Opinion.

The Prospector

Subscribe to our newsletter

* indicates required
Prospector Poll

Do you enjoy morning or afternoon classes ?

  • Morning classes (74%, 14 Votes)
  • Afternoon classes (26%, 5 Votes)

Total Voters: 19

Loading ... Loading ...
Attendees point out a piece of art on display at the Texas as Art exhibit at the UTEP Centennial Museum and Chihuahuan Desert Gardens.
Museums & Art
Seeing Texas in a whole new way
September 21, 2023
1.08billion monthly users open up TikTok to this screen.
Arts & Culture
Risk it or Rec it: Possible scam to millions
September 21, 2023
Midfielder Sheyliene attempts to run down the ball during a match Sept. 14.
UTEP Soccer struggles in intense game against Idaho
September 20, 2023
Arizona Wildcats beat UTEP 31-10 in Arizona Sep. 16. Photo courtesy of UTEP Athletics
UTEP football faces disappointing loss on the road
September 20, 2023
The novel “Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe” written by Aitch Alberto, now has a film adaptation with music written by Lin Manuel Miranda and features familiar faces such as Eva Longoria and Eugenio Derbez. Photo courtesy of Blue Fox Entertainment
Film & Television
Aristotle and Dante should be the standard for LGBTQIA+ storytelling
September 20, 2023

A revolution through desegregation: A look at Thelma White Camacks’ legacy

Thelma White Camak played a significant role in the desegregation of Texas Western College in 1955. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia Commons

Thelma White Camack was a pioneer of her time and played a significant role in the desegregation of Texas Western College (TWC), now known as UTEP, in 1955. She opened the door for African American students to apply and be admitted to the university while leaving a lasting impression on the institution. 

Born in Marlin, TX in 1936. White was the daughter of Ray and Johnnie Mae White, later the family moved to Central El Paso when Thelma was only a small child. 

A hardworking and devoted daughter, as many close friends and family recalled her, White attended the city’s only desegregated school at Douglass High School.  

White, the class valedictorian who graduated in 1954, made an ordinary move that would soon affect her life and rally a chain of events that would loosen discrimination and oppression in Texas. 

Coach Nolan Richardson, a UTEP alum and member of the Hall of Fame of Collegiate Basketball, once had White as a tutor at Douglass School. He shared his thoughts on White in an article devoted to her legacy. 

“She was the right person to take on the right issue for the right person,” Richardson said. “She decided that segregation was wrong, and she was not going to take it. I never felt so proud of her.” 

When she applied for admission to Texas Western College in September 1954, she was later denied entry due to her skin color. But her attempt to enroll was amidst the controversial ruling of Brown v. Board of Education that occurred earlier that year. Despite the Supreme Court’s decision in “Separate but Equal,” which declared segregation in public schools was unconstitutional and illegal. 

However, Texas state laws at the time remained unchanged. 

There were just two schools available at the time for African American students who wished to attend a four-year college in Texas: Texas Southern in Houston and Prairie View A&M in Houston’s northwest. White enrolled in New Mexico A&M College, now known as New Mexico State University, in Las Cruces amidst being refused entry. 

Accompanied by an NAACP representative, White filed a lawsuit against The University of Texas Board of Regents along with TWC leaders on March 30, 1955. 

On July 8, 1955, the decision was made to give African American students who wanted to attend TWC the same opportunity as everyone else. 

With her lawsuit, TWC  became the first desegregated undergraduate institution in Texas. 

Twelve black students entered TWC without incident for the first time that fall. White, however, decided to stay at New Mexico A&M college where she met her husband, Curtis Camack. 

White rarely gave information about her participation in this pivotal event, and she spent her remaining life in El Paso as a devoted mother to her four children the couple had. Close relatives recalled that White preferred it that way.  

“She didn’t get involved for the fame,” said John E. Douglas, White’s cousin and former El Paso police officer, in an article about her life. “The reason was to end segregation.” After spending several years working at White Sands Missile Range, White eventually retired due to health issues after being diagnosed with breast cancer. 

Thelma White Camack passed away Aug. 9, 1985 in El Paso. A UTEP academic support club for African American students was founded in 1993 in her memory. 

Erik Acosta is a staff reporter and may be reached at [email protected] 

Leave a Comment
About the Contributor
Erik Acosta, Web/Copy Editor
Erik Acosta is a senior at the University of Texas at El Paso majoring in multimedia journalism and minoring in theatre. Erik started working at The Prospector as staff reporter spring 2023, and now serves as the web and copy editor.
More to Discover

Comments (0)

All The Prospector Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Activate Search
A revolution through desegregation: A look at Thelma White Camacks’ legacy