Fri., September 20, 2013 5:59pm (EDT)

Mercer's First Black Student Returns
By Leah Fleming
Updated: 10 months ago

Macon, Ga.  —  
Sam Oni outside his old dorm, September 20, 2013 (photo:LFleming)
Sam Oni outside his old dorm, September 20, 2013 (photo:LFleming)
The Mercer University community gathered in Macon Friday to commemorate a half century of integration. The student who broke the race barrier was back on campus.

Sam Oni, an African missionary convert from Ghana, was the first black student accepted into the private Baptist College. Now, 50 years later he sits on the front porch of his favorite place on the Macon campus….Sherwood Residence Hall where he lived for four years.

He remembers that the president of Mercer at that time, Rufus Harris, was open to voluntarily integrating the university. "But he was also cognizant of the fact that the Georgia Baptists who had a close relationship with Mercer University, might not be as well disposed to the idea of having a black face on their campus."

Oni was blocked from entering the campus church at that time. He is no longer Baptist, but says he is spiritual.

Bennie Stephens who also integrated Mercer in 1963 was also on campus for the convocation.