John Lewis Brandon, a key challenger of racial segregation at UNC-Chapel Hill, died on Jan. 22 in Houston after complications from cancer. He was 80 years old. His death came less than a month after the death of his classmate LeRoy Frasier, who died on Dec. 29.
This loss is a difficult one, especially for the people of this generation who had to take these heroic steps, said Joseph Jordan, director of UNC’s Sonja Haynes Stone Center for Black Culture and History.
“Then also understanding that we’ve never really given them the credit that they deserve for changing the way that we operate, not only at UNC, but at other universities across the country,” Jordan said.
Brandon's road to UNC-CH wasn’t an easy one. Brandon and brothers LeRoy and Ralph Frasier were students at Durham’s all-black Hillside High School. They were denied by UNC-CH's Board of Trustees based on the students’ ability to attend a black college in the state at the time.
Filing a lawsuit against the board, the three said that segregated colleges were unconstitutional based on the rulings of the 1954 U.S. Supreme Court case, Brown v. Board of Education. The students won the case.