The African American Cultural Center, AACC hosted its annual Living Legends Series which honored Irwin Holmes Jr., the first African-American undergraduate student to graduate from N.C. State on Thursday.

The presenation which gave insight into Holmes’

thoughts and experiences, was moderated by Vice Provost

for Student Diversity Dr. Tracey Ray, Nubian Message Edi-
tor-in-Chief Chris Hart-Williams, and Managing Nia Doaks.

Growing up in Durham, North Carolina, Holmes was

exposed to tennis at an early age and even referenced the

opportunities that Durham provided for African Americans to

play tennis locally. When he came to N.C. State, Holmes was

also was the first to integrate the Atlantic Coast Conferenceas

varsity tennis athelte. Holmes graduated third in his high

school class from Hillside High School.

Upon graduation, he decided that he wanted to pursue en-
gineering and applied to various universities including North

Carolina State University and Howard University. Holmes

ultimately chose N.C. State, becoming one of the four African

American males admitted into the school in 1956.

Until N.C. State, Holmes acknowledged that he had no

experience talking to white peers. However, throughout his

four years of college he gained experience and understanding

of those who did not appear to look like him.

Holmes spoke in great detail of encounters, both good and

bad, with peers who were not of the same race. For instance,

he spoke of the laws enforced by the state of SC, which forbade

white athletes to play another team that was integrated with an

African-American player. This is just one instance of adversity

that Holmes faced throughout his undergraduate career.

During an intramural sports tournament, he and his

roommate, who was also African-American, were not allowed

to play due to a decision of a captain from another hall. When

Holmes informed his captain about it, the captain took a stand

and made it so Watauga could have it’s own team under it’s

own leadership. Doing that alone increased the participation

of Holmes’ residence hall and ultimately they reached a second

place position in one of the tournaments.

Academically, Holmes brought diversity to the classroom

and in doing so challenged the norm. One of his professor’s

refused to teach a class that had an African-American student

in it.

Through Holmes’ descriptions of these situations, students

were able to see how privileged they are to be able to learn and

have the opportunity to study at a predominantly white insti-
tution that has become more accepting and acknowledging

of the African American community. Not only that, students

and faculty present were very appreciative of the foundation

that he laid down for present and future African American

students to follow.

In addition, Holmes didn’t stop his education at the

undergraduate level — he also continued to get his masters in

electrical engineering from Drexel University. The AACC had

the privilege to host such a captivating moment in N.C. State’s

history by bringing Irwin Holmes Jr. to tell his story and share

his time with the student body.

His closing words of advice to the students were: “When

you are gone, don’t forget NC State. Pay it forward as much as

you can. It’s not all about spending the rewards of your educa-
tion on you. Share it with others.”

What are you doing right now in your education? Will

you be able to share it with others once you leave NC State?

Will you be a living legend?