In 1950, Mary Jean (Price) Walls was the first African American student to apply to Missouri State University. Though she was qualified – she was salutatorian of her class – she was denied admission.
In 2010, Missouri State awarded her an honorary bachelor’s degree, and in 2016 the Mary Jean Price Walls Multicultural Resource Center Annex was named in her honor.
Walls died on July 6, 2020. She had eight children and she retired from the workforce in 2009 after serving as a janitor at a local science center.
“I was saddened to learn of the passing of Mary Jean Price Walls this week,” said Missouri State President Clif Smart. “She was denied admission to the university in 1950 because of the color of her skin. She is a reminder of our history of discrimination which we continue to work to overcome.”
Walls’ son, Terry, uncovered his mother’s story when he was a student at Missouri State. He graduated with a criminology degree in 2012.
“In 2016, the MSU Multicultural Resource Center Annex was proudly named in recognition of Mary Jean Price Walls,” said Dr. Dee Siscoe, vice president for student affairs. “I was sad to hear of her passing. I believe her legacy will live on through the vast number of students who will benefit from the MRC Annex.”