Columbia, SC (WLTX) - Over the weekend, thousands of students moved onto USC's campus getting ready for the start of the new school year. But the campus looked totally different 50-years ago, having no students of color enrolled until September 1963.
"Being black and living in the south at that time was not easy; it's amazing how things have changed," said James Solomon.
Before 1963, the thought of a black student being enrolled at the University of South Carolina was just that; a thought .But for three students, they made it a reality.
"I am a citizen of South Carolina, my folks pay taxes just like everyone else, this is a public university, I ought to be able to attend."
50 years ago, James Solomon along with Henrie Treadwell and Robert Anderson walked into the admissions office of USC and registered to be students, making them the first black students to desegregate the university.
Treadwell and Anderson enrolled as undergraduate students and Solomon enrolled to pursue his doctorate in mathematics.
Surprisingly he says there were no large crowds or angry mobs.
"The only students that we saw were hanging in the windows when we held our press conference."
As a man who was in the Air Force during integration, Solomon felt prepared for any type of racial obstacles that stood in his way.
He remembers going to eat lunch at the Russell house and hearing people talk about them; just about every day.
"The racist slurs that came from people standing behind the shades and in the half open windows but they were never face to face and never where you could see anyone, so what I said to Robert was is that all of these people are cowards, because if they weren't cowards they would say these things in our face and so that's the way it was on the first day and thereafter."
Now 50 years later, whenever Solomon walks the campus it makes him feel good to see a diverse campus.
"Dr. Pastidies was just telling me 20% of the enrollment now is black students and I think that is tremendous."
Knowing how ugly it could get for most universities to desegregate...he applauds how USC handled theirs.
"There was some nasty talk but there was no violence and I think that speaks well for this state and its leaders."
Solomon who will be 83 on Saturday will join Henrie Treadwell the only other living student at USC on September 11th; the day they enrolled at the university 50 years ago for several programs and events.