Man who once sued UT for racial discrimination will now receive statue on campus

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- A man who once sued the University of Texas for racial discrimination will now be honored by the state's largest college.

Also, the former first lady of Houston couldn't be happier about it.

Elyse Lanier told ABC13 that she has been going through her late husband's papers. Mayor Bob Lanier died more than five years after leading the city from 1992 to 1998.

She discovered a letter that was sent 25 years ago to mayor Lanier from the aunt of Heman Sweatt.

Sweatt was a postal worker who sued UT in the 1940s when he wasn't accepted into the law school because he was Black.

His case went all the way to the US Supreme Court, which ruled in his favor and ultimately paved the way for all American public schools to be integrated.

But when Sweatt showed up to law school in 1959, he was told that he would have to sit alone in a basement classroom instead of being able to take classes with the white students.

Bob Lanier, who was a law student at the time, decided to go down to the basement to tutor Sweatt in Constitutional Law.

Elyse said she was amazed when she found the handwritten letter that was sent in 1995 from Sweatt's aunt, Virginia Brown Sessums.

"He told me about his experience there, and how you came to his aid when it was not kosher to be the friend of a social rebel," Sessums wrote. "It is not the great things that cause a society to mature culturally. It is the little noticed commitment to a cause that makes the real difference."

Lanier said she knows her husband would be thrilled to know that UT recently announced that it would honor Sweatt with a statue and name a building after him as well.

Sweatt's lawsuit not only opened up UT and other colleges around the country, but it led the way to another landmark case, Brown V. Board of Education, which ruled that all American schools must be integrated.

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