Leaders for Desegregation Furman University

The enrollment of Joseph Vaughn in January 1965 was the result of more than 10 years of debate and discussion. Support for desegregation slowly but steadily grew, and by the mid-1960s, most groups on campus believed that Furman should accept "all qualified applicants." 

The biographies in this section represent a broad cross-section of the Furman community—Joan Lipscomb was a student, Sapp Funderburk was a prominent alumnus, Alfred Reid and Schaefer Kendrick were professors, and Francis Bonner was an administrator—and they reflect the complexity of Furman's decision to desegregate the campus.

For some, it was a moral responsibility inspired by Christian fellowship and love. For others, it was a practical policy made necessary by the federal government's support for civil rights. Whatever it meant to them individually, those involved agreed that the struggle over desegregation would not only decide the university's admission policy, but the meaning and purpose of the university itself.

Campus Leaders

  • Francis Wesley Bonner
      Francis Bonner Furman University

      Francis Wesley "Frank" Bonner was born January 17, 1917, in Lanett, Alabama, the son of a Baptist minister. In 1939, he graduated with honors from the University of Alabama. In World War II, Bonner served as an Army Air Force officer and with the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), forerunner to the CIA. He earned a Ph.D. from the University of North Carolina in 1949, specializing in Chaucer and medieval literature. 

      He moved quickly through the ranks after coming to Furman as an associate professor in 1949. From 1953 to 1961, he was dean of the men's college and chair of the English Department. In 1961, Bonner was appointed dean of the university

      Bonner was at the center of Furman's desegregation. In 1964, Bonner and Greenville businessman and alumnus Sapp Funderburk hand-selected Joseph Vaughn, a graduate of Greenville's Sterling High School, to break Furman's color barrier. A few months later, Bonner was serving as the university's acting president when the trustees made the final decision to admit the first black student. Before the trustees voted, Bonner made an impassioned plea for desegregation, citing the practical necessities for Furman of making the change. Bonner was still at the top post in 1965 when Vaughn, and three African-American graduate students, attended their first classes on campus. Bonner would later cite his role in desegregating Furman as one of his most rewarding accomplishments.

      Bonner was also a leader in athletic administration at Furman, serving many years as faculty chair of athletics, as president of the Southern Conference (1973-1979), as vice president of the NCAA (1981-84), and on the NCAA Executive Committee (1984-90). He is a member of the Furman Athletic Hall of Fame. Bonner died in Charlotte in 2009.

      Read Bonner's speech to the Board of Trustees.

  • Claud Sapp Funderburk
      Claud Funderburk Furman University

      Claud Sapp Funderburk was born on September 12, 1916, in Columbia, South Carolina, and graduated from Furman in 1939. The following year, on March 2, 1940, he married Frances Norwood, whose father John Wilkins Norwood was president of the largest bank in Greenville. 

      Funderburk followed his father-in-law into the finance industry, becoming an adjuster and loan manager before serving three years in World War II. After the war, his career quickly advanced, as he became manager of two finance companies and then vice president of the Citizens and Southern National Bank. He was an active civic leader, serving as president of the local Rotary Club and chairman of the Greenville Chamber of Commerce. 

      Throughout his life, Funderburk maintained close ties to Furman. In the early 1960s, he served as Alumni Board President and chaired a multi-million dollar development drive. In 1961, when students and faculty members expressed support for desegregation, he defended the university against criticism. In May 1964, Vice-President Francis Bonner asked Funderburk to find an African-American high school senior with a record of leadership and academic success. After visiting Greenville's all-black Sterling High School, he identified Joseph Allen Vaughn. On May 20, Funderburk wrote Bonner simply, "In my judgment, this is 'him.'" When the trustees delayed desegregation, Bonner arranged for Vaughn to attend an all-black university in Charlotte. Funderburk monitored Vaughn's progress throughout the fall semester, and in November 1964, he sent him the paperwork to complete his transfer to Furman for the spring of 1965. Funderburk died in Greenville on September 7, 1984.

  • Schaefer Kendrick
      Schaefer Kendrick Furman University

      Schaefer Bryant Kendrick was born in Greer on April 28, 1916, and graduated from Furman in 1937. He earned a law degree from the University of South Carolina and served in the Navy in World War II before returning to Greenville to open his own practice. He worked part-time in Furman's Economics Department for 43 years, teaching courses in business law and personal finance. Kendrick was much beloved for his kindness and humor by his students and faculty colleagues at Furman. He was a great raconteur, in the best southern tradition. In the 1960s, he served on the biracial committee that worked to desegregate Greenville's businesses, theaters, and motels. He served as president of the Greenville Bar Association and the Greenville Business Club and was a leader in Greenville's First Baptist church. He died in Greenville on June 28, 1994.

  • Joan Esther Lipscomb
      Joan Esther Lipscomb Furman University

      Joan Esther Lipscomb was born in Walhalla, South Carolina, on March 20, 1935, and attended the Greenville Women's College. While there, she sang in the A capella choir and worked in the Dining Hall to pay tuition, but she devoted much of her free time to journalism. She distributed The Greenville News throughout campus, wrote for The Furman Hornet, and edited the student handbook and the literary magazine, The Echo

      In the spring edition of the 1955 Echo, Lipscomb wrote an article in support of desegregation, insisting that "there is simply no way back to the way things once were." Fearing controversy, administrators decided it was "in the best interests of the university that the Echo not be published" and confiscated all 1,500 copies. Lipscomb and co-editor Huby Cooper resigned in protest, and the incident briefly received national attention. 

      Lipscomb married Theodore Marr on August 18, 1955, and after her graduation, the couple spent three years in France with the Air Force. Returning to the United States, they spent a few years in Maine and South Carolina before finally settling in Rochester, New York. There, she earned a master's degree and became a special education teacher. She retired in 1990 after 30 years in education. 

      Though she played no direct role in the Civil Rights Movement, she was asked to host a visiting West African delegation while living in Maine in 1960. When she agreed, segregationists began making threatening phone calls and driving up and down her family's street. As with the Echo incident five years earlier, Lipscomb recalled she had "no idea there would be controversy. We just felt it was important to do…Christian people should be for desegregation."

  • Alfred Sandlin Reid
      Alfred Sandlin Reid Furman University

      Alfred Sandlin Reid was born in Orlando, Florida, on October 26, 1924. He planned to follow his father into the ministry, but in college, he began to reevaluate his fundamentalist beliefs. He left college in June 1944 to serve in World War II, and over the next year, he fought in France, Germany, and Czechoslovakia. He later credited his military service with teaching him that "people are people—not derisive stereotypes," and after the war he began attending an integrated church. 

      Reid earned a Ph.D. in English literature from the University of Florida in 1952 and taught in Connecticut and at The Citadel before coming to Furman in 1955. Throughout the civil rights movement, he remained deeply committed to racial justice. Southern resistance to Brown v. Board of Education filled him with "embarrassment and shame," and he used his poetry to express "the guilt of being a Southerner." In class discussions and academic publications, he rationally insisted that desegregation was a legal, moral, and social necessity. He wrote letters of protest against Greenville's Jim Crow laws, served on an integrated Human Relations Council, and took part in a drive to increase black voter registration. 

      In 1963, Reid wrote a resolution calling for the desegregation of Furman, insisting that segregation was "incompatible with basic Christian principle." The faculty adopted the resolution unanimously on September 7, 1963. In the late 1960s, Reid added works by Martin Luther King and Malcolm X to his curricula, and in 1972, he began teaching a course on black literature. He sponsored the liberal Southern Student Organizing Committee (SSOC), which fought for civil and student rights, and when the SSOC took on controversial issues, Reid defended it from attacks from President Blackwell and the trustees. Reid became chair of the English department in 1972 and earned the Meritorious Teaching Award in 1973. Throughout his life, he published two volumes of poetry, three prose works, and a "definitive" history of Furman University. He died in Greenville on March 7, 1976.

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