African American Contributions

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Tempe History Museum Photo A few African Americans are depicted in photographs of Tempe from the turn of the twentieth century. However, nothing is known about these individuals or where they resided.

Racist attitudes increased after African American share croppers were brought in to work in the cotton fields in the 1920s. As a result, African Americans were largely kept out of Tempe.

As early as 1920, African Americans attended the Territorial Normal School, now known as Arizona State University. However, they were excluded from the cafeteria, the dorms and even the restrooms. For a long time, they were not allowed to live in the City of Tempe and were largely confined to South Phoenix. African Americans’ involvement with the rest of the community did not expand beyond the university until the 1960s when they were allowed to purchase houses in Tempe.
   "The Firsts"
The First Benton James was the first African American graduate of ASU (1924).
The First Love Hatton Jordan was the first African American female graduate of ASU (1928).
The First The Dunbar Social & Literary Society, the first African American student social organization, was formed in 1936.
The First Emerson Harvey was the first African American football player at ASU. He started playing in 1937.
The First Jesse Wilmer Jones was the first African American PhD recipient at ASU (1963).
The First Warren and Carol Livingston were the first African Americans to buy property in Tempe (1965).
The First Joshua Bursh and Charles Murray were the first African Americans to graduate from Arizona State University Law School (1970).
The First Clovis Campbell was the first African American elected to the Arizona State Senate (1972).
The First Ed "Butch" Cowings was the first African American officer on the Tempe Police force. He joined the force in 1974.
The First Dr. Betty Greathouse was the first African American to serve on the Women’s Intercollegiate Athletic Board at Arizona State University (1973) and the first African American female member of Arizona State University’s Athletic Board (1976). She also was the first African American Tempe All American Woman Educator, selected by the Arizona Women’s Partnership and then-Mayor Harry Mitchell (1985).
The First Cecil Patterson earned his law degree at Arizona State University and became the first African American Superior Court Judge (1980), later serving on the Appellate Court.
The First Gladys Styles Johnston, Dean of Education, became the first African American Dean at ASU (1986).
The First Corey Woods is the first African American to serve on the Tempe City Council. He was elected in 2008.
   Other Facts
Fact Warren Livingston from Tempe played pass defense for the Dallas Cowboys from 1961-1966.  
Fact Eugene Grigsby and Roosevelt Woods were two African American art professors at Arizona State University who became nationally acclaimed artists. 
Fact Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke at Arizona State University in 1964.