Maxwell Courtney: The First African-American to attend FSU

Max Courtney

From "A Statue, a Story, a legacy" by Kerry Dexter,, 28 January 2012:

There were riots, there were army troops in the streets, there was death. The state defied the president; the president defied the state. Old wounds were opened, new ones were made. To watchers on television, it seemed as though Mississippi had become another country, and to people in Mississippi on both sides of the line about integration, it sometimes seemed that way, too. It was 1962. In Oxford, Mississippi, James Meredith was enrolling as the first African American undergraduate student at the University of Mississippi.

Things were quieter a few hundred miles away, in the Florida panhandle. In Tallahassee, Florida’s capital city, Maxwell Courtney was accepted to Florida State University. With an interest in math and high grades, he could have chosen to go elsewhere. He could have done that and chosen to stay in his hometown of Tallahassee: historically black Florida A&M University is just across town from the FSU campus. Courtney made another choice. He became the first African American undergraduate student to enroll at Florida State University. In his class he was the only black.

John Marks, who has served as mayor of Tallahassee, was one of nine African Americans who were part of the freshman class four years later. He has recalled that while some greeted them with kindness, in his words to an alumni publication, “ the welcome mat wasn’t exactly out. But we had each other.” Maxwell Courtney, however, had no black classmates to share his experience.

Max Courtney working at the Florida Flambeau.
"Past Week's Upheavals Reveal Pres. Johnson's Capabilities" (Flambeau)
Max Courtney with Dave Nelsen
"An Average Guy"
Maxwell Courtney: The First African-American to attend FSU