Learning From Nixon

Chelsea Gardner | Staff Writer

How Past Racial Tensions Will Shape Williams’ Presidency  

Matthew Williams

Matthew Williams

Brian Nixon, N.C. State’s second African American Student Body President resigned from office in 1990, just one month before his presidency ended, after he was attacked outside of North Hall. Despite the short amount of time left in his candidacy, the racial intimidation and violence impacted him so greatly that he could not continue. According to the N.C. State Historical Library, “the pain and pressure [of his Presidency had] finally taken its toll [on Nixon] physically, mentally, emotionally, and especially academically.” 

Elected in 1989, Nixon won the coveted position of Student Body President with more than 69 percent of votes. However, racial tension surrounded the election, as some N.C. State students did not welcome his positive efforts for the University. His life was threatened on numerous occasions via calls, letters, and other methods of intimidation. Due to the frequent racial death threats, the University provided Nixon with personal security, but security was unable to protect him from the mental, physical, and emotional brutality.

Nixon finished up his senior year and graduated with degrees in business management and economics. Nixon is currently a pastor in Chattanooga, T.N. The adversity he faced is a harsh reminder to Matthew Williams, our current Student Body President Elect and the fourth African American to hold the position, of the racial tension that was once present on our campus.

A native of Cary, N.C., Williams has officially stepped into the legacy of those before him. Though devastated to hear about Nixon’s negative experiences, Williams appreciates the things Nixon was able to establish during his presidency, including programs such as “Project Togo”, “Adopt-a-Part of Campus”, and “A Night with Student Government,” all aimed at moving the university forward.

“[Nixon] was able to accomplish a lot among the adversity he faced,” said Williams. “You can either let experiences break you down or build you up. Brian took those times and built an incredible legacy of great Student Government programs, and became an exceptional pastor, husband, and father.”

In his brief bio page from his campaign, Matt mentions that his aunt, Sherry Williams’ courage paved the way for minority students to get involved and active in Student Government, especially in executive positions. Sherry Williams was the first African American woman to run for Student Body President at N.C. State in the 70s. Williams said that his aunt ran for Student Body President at a time when students on campus were not as accepting.

According to Williams, he is not just inspired by the adversity she faced but her work ethic and determination. He said, “I didn’t look to [her] for [her] courage in dealing with racial violence, because it’s not something I worry about here at N.C. State. N.C. State is my home. I think the Brian Nixon presidency had its successes, but was a dark time in the history of the Student Body Presidency.” Williams feels that his presidency will be one without a similar incident. “It’s something that I firmly believe will never happen on this campus again,” he said.

 

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