Civil rights activist receives doctorate from UT after school rejected him nearly 60 years ago

Tennessee

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE)- Nearly 60 years after he fought to get into the University of Tennessee, Theotis Robinson Jr. received an honorary doctorate in social work on Friday.

Robinson spent his life working to advance social justice.

“When I think back to when I first attempted to come to UT and received a letter of denial because of my race to be here at this moment and receiving a doctorate from the University of Tennessee that marks quite a journey,” Robinson said.

After finally being allowed to attend UT in January 1961, Robinson became the first African American admitted to the university. His time at UT didn’t end with his graduation though. After spending time in public service he returned to the campus as a teacher.

Robinson was even eventually named the vice president of the school almost 40 years after being rejected.

Robinson retired from the school in 2014 but still occasionally comes back to give lectures.

Robinson attended fall graduation Friday and spoke about his civil rights journey to hopeful graduates as they begin life after school.

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