Fifty years ago, five young men were completing their rat year at VMI. They were unique in their skin color, as they were the first African-American cadets to attend VMI, but nothing was unique about their experiences at the Institute: They matriculated, endured the rigors of the Rat Line and became alumni like thousands of others. The Class of 1969 – the 1st Class at the time – prepared the way for the Institute’s racial integration, something that has been called “a non-event” by many of those involved.
Four of the integration pioneers – Harry Gore ’72, Adam Randolph ’72, Dick Valentine ’72 and Phil Wilkerson ’72 – returned to VMI for a panel discussion as part of the Class of 1969’s 50th Reunion in late April. The fifth man, Larry Foster ’72, died in a drowning accident following his 4th Class year.