OHIO — A few months after the Supreme Court ruled on Brown v. Board of Education, Cedarville University accepted its first Black student during a time of racial tension. This fall, that same student will get to see his name placed on a new campus dormitory at a time when unrest has risen again.

What You Need To Know

  • Parker graduated from Cedarville University with a degree in history and went on to start a number of churches around the U.S. 

  • Parker is believed to be the first African American to have his name added to a building

  • The dedication is scheduled for August 7

James Parker, 87, is no stranger to making history and being a pioneer in his time. Parker stepped foot onto Cedarville University’s campus to major in history and psychology 65 years ago, making him the first Black student at the university.
“I was excited because my goal was to learn the Bible, and here was a school about 100 miles from my home and gave me an opportunity to learn scripture,” Parker said.
Not knowing fully what to expect, Parker had been welcomed by the president. He received his own room, and hebelieves he was the only student on campus at that time with a private room.  

Regardless, he did his best to stay focused.

“I remember praying that God would send more young men to get trained to reach the Black population," Parker said.

Meanwhile, Parker noted he got along well with the students there at the time, even serving as vice president of the freshman class and chaplain of his sophomore class.

However, when he went off campus with white classmates, they got an inside look at what things were really like for Parker.

“About 10 of us and we waited and waited and waited. And so one of the students went to the waitress and asked her when were we goin’ get served. And she said, 'Well you’re not goin’ get served cause you got that black guy with you,'" Parker recalled.

Discrimination wasn’t a new thing to Parker. After all, civil unrest and racial tension was very prevalent at that time, just like it is today.

Understanding some things have changed while others haven’t, Parker was quite surprised when he learned his name would be put on a new wing of a dormitory soon.

“It’s beyond my imagination what God has done,” Parker said.

Realizing the magnitude of what's about to happen, having his name on a new building, he said it is a sign that progress is being made.

That building is expected to be dedicated August 7. Parker is believed to be the first African American to have his name on a building at Cedarville University.

After graduating from Cedarville University, he joined the Air Force and started several churches around the country. Today he resides in Syracuse, New York where he works with his son-in-law in ministry. His message for young people today is to be patient, but to keep working toward change.