Prepare to Be Inspired

On April 29, the 2016 Silas Hunt Legacy Awards will be presented to three pioneering African American University of Arkansas alumni and two outstanding supporters who have helped the university advance diversity programs at the U of A.

Silas Hunt was the first African American student since Reconstruction to attend a major Southern public institution of higher education. He enrolled, without litigation, in the University of Arkansas School of Law on Feb. 2, 1948. Hunt, who grew up in Texarkana, was a World War II veteran and earned his undergraduate degree at Arkansas Agricultural, Mechanical and Normal College, now the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff. He died of tuberculosis in the spring of 1949 before finishing his law degree.

The Silas Hunt Legacy Award was created by the U of A in 2005 and first awarded in 2006. This year’s recipients were nominated and selected by a volunteer selection committee of University of Arkansas faculty, students, professional staff and former recipients.


Sharon E. BernardSharon Bernard was the first African American woman to attend and graduate from the University of Arkansas School of Law. She was founding president of the Kappa Beta Pi Legal Sorority, which she formed with the two other women law students at the time. In 1970, she became the first African American woman licensed as an attorney in Arkansas.

During the civil rights movement she also participated in sit-ins and marches in her then-hometown, Helena, and on other occasions, was designated to provide legal services for those who were arrested in the protests. She helped African-Americans register to vote in Arkansas and better understand and use their legal rights.

Bernard eventually returned to her native Detroit, accepting a job as the first woman in the three-person legal department at Michigan National Bank. She retired 30 years later as First Vice President and the statewide Director of CRA/Community Development. During her career she was a community leader and received numerous awards.



Harold BettonDr. Harold Betton was the first African American graduate of the College of Agriculture (now the Dale Bumpers College of Agricultural, Food and Life Sciences) at the University of Arkansas and the first black undergraduate student selected to do research work in the college.

Betton earned a master’s degree in natural sciences before attending the University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle.

He opened the Betton Clinic in Little Rock and has been principal physician there since 1978. He is also the former chief of family practice at Baptist Medical Center.

In 1993, Betton was selected as Pastor of New Light Missionary Baptist Church in Little Rock, a position he continues to hold. He earned a master’s in biblical sciences and a doctorate in biblical studies from Trinity College and Seminary.

Betton has combined his medical and scientific background with his deep commitment to his religious belief in a series of four books published with co-author Glenda F. Hodges. He is also active in his local community.


Dinah G. GantDinah Gant enrolled at the University of Arkansas in the fall of 1971 as a civil engineering major and was the first African American woman to receive an undergraduate degree in civil engineering from the university.

Gant began her professional career with Southwestern Bell Telephone Company in Hot Springs, and later was hired as a civil engineer with Polytech, Inc. Consulting Engineers. In 1991, she was hired by the City of Milwaukee as the manager of its newly initiated storm water management program and was later promoted to Section Manager for the Engineering Section of the Milwaukee Water Works Division. She retired from the Milwaukee Water Works in 2013.

Gant was the first woman and African American to be inducted into the Arkansas Academy of Civil Engineers. She is a licensed professional engineer and has been active in volunteer efforts and service on nonprofit boards.



Richard E. GreeneRichard Greene is a longtime supporter of the diversity programs at the University of Arkansas. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration with a concentration in finance and real estate from the Sam M. Walton College of Business. He is a life member of the Arkansas Alumni Association, a member of the Campaign Arkansas Steering Committee and Towers of Old Main, a giving society for the university’s most generous benefactors. Greene endowed the Camden E. and Dortha Sue Greene CARE Scholarship for low-income, first-generation students from Arkansas. He is also a prime supporter of the Razorback Bridge Scholarship program, which provides financial and academic support to underrepresented students from Arkansas.



Walton Family FoundationThe Walton Family Foundation is built on the guiding principle of Sam and Helen Walton: to increase opportunity and improve the lives of others. The foundation is a longtime and significant supporter of the University of Arkansas, and an active supporter of diversity initiatives throughout Arkansas. The foundation continues to provide critical support for the university’s initiatives in East Arkansas, providing funding for scholarships and academic support.