Thursday, February 17, 2011
Writer: S. W. Van Zandbergen
Theotis Robinson Jr. to Speak at Institute’s Black History Celebration
Please join the University of Tennessee Space Institute as we celebrate Black History Month on
February 24, at 11 a.m. in the UTSI Auditorium. The featured speaker, Mr. Theotis Robinson, will
speak about the “Journey to Change.” Mr. Robinson serves as the Vice President for Equity and
Diversity at The University of Tennessee.
Mr. Robinson is no stranger to adversity. A native of Knoxville, he was active in the Civil Rights
movement of the 1960s. As a senior in high school in 1959, he was a plaintiff in a lawsuit to
desegregate the public school system in Knoxville after attempting to enroll in an all‐white high
school. He also participated in demonstrations, such as lunch counter sit‐ins and stand‐ins at
downtown movie theaters.
In 1960, Mr. Robinson applied for admission to the University of Tennessee, but was denied because
of his race. He and his parents met with President Andy Holt to appeal his denial based on race. His
application was taken to the UT Board of Trustees meeting in November 1960 – the policy regarding
the admission of “Negroes” was changed, and in January 1961, Mr. Robinson made history when he
became one of the first blacks to be admitted to the UT undergraduate school.
Mr. Robinson was recognized as one of the 100 most influential Knoxvillians of the 20th Century by
the Metro Pulse newspaper. He is a member of the University of Tennessee Commission for Blacks
and a former political opinion columnist for the Knoxville News-Sentinel. In 1994 he was a Charter
Inductee into the University of Tennessee African American Hall of Fame and has a street in Knoxville
named in his honor.
The program will include special music and a reception following the program. The UTSI Black
History Celebration is free and open to the public. Please contact UTSI Human Resources at (931)
393 -7226 for additional information.
Theotis Robinson Jr.