The late Thelma White Camack occupies a small but important corner in the annals of Black history in the state of Texas. As a prospective student at Texas Western College, Camack was denied due to her race which prompted the NAACP to rally around her for their desegregation cause.
Camack was born Thelma Joyce White on this day in 1936 and was raised in El Paso, Texas. She was the class valedictorian at Douglass High School for the 1954 graduating class, the same year of the landmark Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision. After Camack attempted to enter Texas Western College, the NAACP selected her as part of their ongoing work to get schools around the nation to honor the decision.
The University of Texas initially resisted, but then yielded when the decision was finally confirmed. While the legal fight occurred, Camack attended classes at New Mexico A&M College. In September 1955, 12 Black students entered TWC’s halls, which is today known as the University of Texas at El Paso. Because she feared for her safety and comfort at the school, Camack elected to remain in New Mexico.
After college, Camack met Major Curtis Camack. The couple had four children, three of whom became students at the University of Texas at El Paso. Camack passed in 1985 from cancer. In 1993, UTEP established a scholarship for Black students in her name.
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