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University History

Appendix 3: Biographies of Proposed Names

James Solomon Jr.

Reasons for Naming

  • One of three African Americans to desegregate the university in 1963
  • Enrolled in university’s graduate program, first Black graduate student of the mathematics department.
  • As a member of the Sumter District 17 School Board, became the first African American elected public official in Sumter, S.C., since Reconstruction
  • Served as South Carolina State Agency Director, Division Director at the Commission on Higher Education, and the Commissioner of the Department of Social Services
  • Dedicated to civic service in Columbia — Order of the Palmetto recipient


James L. Solomon, Jr.(1930-Present)

By Valinda W. Littlefield

James Solomon was born on August 24, 1930, in McDonough, Georgia.  He graduated high school at 16 and attended Morris Brown College for a year. He left college to serve in the Air Force. He served for the duration of the Korean War and was stationed in Okinawa, Japan. After leaving the Air Force, he found himself in Sumter, South Carolina. There he met his wife and earned a Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry at Morris College. He went on to earn his master’s degree in mathematics from Atlanta University in 1960.  His master’s thesis was titled Lecturers in the theory of functions of a complex variable, Part III.1

Solomon was a faculty member at Morris College from 1960 to 1973. He was hired as an instructor but was rapidly promoted. By the 1970s, he was the college’s vice president of institutional planning and research. In addition to his contributions at the collegiate level, Solomon developed and directed an NSF-funded program for elementary school teachers which ran for several years.2

While a professor at Morris College, Solomon was one of three African Americans to desegregate the University of South Carolina in 1963. Solomon enrolled in the University of South Carolina’s graduate program in mathematics, becoming the department’s first African American student. 3

Solomon also served in various state government positions.  Such positions include state agency director, division director at the Commission on Higher Education, and the Commissioner of the Department of Social Services.  When he was elected to the Sumter District 17 School Board, he became the first African American elected to public office in Sumter County, S.C., since Reconstruction.4

Solomon extended his service beyond the realm of academia and civic service. Within the local Columbia community, he has served on various boards and councils, including the Board of Brothers and Sisters, Columbia Urban League, Richland County One District (where he was the first African American to serve as chairman).  Richland County Councils, DSS commissioner, Palmetto Development Group, South Carolina Commission on the Future, Board of United Way of the Midlands and the American Public Welfare Association.  Solomon’s public service and dedication to his community earned him the State of South Carolina’s highest civilian honor, the Order of the Palmetto, awarded by both Governors Richard Riley and Carol Campbell.

In April 2019, the University of South Carolina College of Arts and Sciences and the Mathematics Department unveiled a plaque honoring Solomon for his many contributions.  The plaque is in LeConte College. (The plaque will be reinstalled and unveiled in a ceremony on Monday, Oct. 15, 2023).5



1 Mathematical Gifted and Black, James L. Solomon, Jr., Black History Month 2021 Honoree.  The Network of Minorities in Mathematical Science, 2021.

2 Ibid.

3 "Biographies – 50th Anniversary."  

4 Ibid.  Also, see “1963-2013 Desegregation-Integration, James L. Solomon, Jr.”

5 Kass, Jesse Leo, “James L. Solomon and the End of Segregation at the University of South Carolina.” 


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