MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A member of the Memphis State Eight, Ralph Prater, has passed away.

In 1959, Prater and seven others made history on the campus of University of Memphis, known then as Memphis State University, as the first black students to attend the school.

The group became known as the ‘Memphis State Eight’ for being the first to break the university’s color barrier.

In 2009, the university presented the Memphis State Eight with the Arthur S. Holman Lifetime Achievement Award.

The University of Memphis is deeply saddened by the passing of Ralph Prater, who was among the first group of African American students to enroll at the University in 1959 as a member of the Memphis State Eight. Prater’s impact on our institution and community is immeasurable, and we will forever celebrate his remarkable courage and legacy.

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In 2020, records showed over 7,000 black students were enrolled at the school.