On this edition of In Black America, producer & host John L. Hanson Jr. speaks with the late Dr. James L. Hill, former senior vice president of The University of Texas at Austin and life-long educator, who helped the university make significant progress in the recruitment of students from underrepresented communities and build strong relationships with the East Austin community.
Hill became the university’s first African American vice president, serving under four presidents. In 1993 President Robert Berdahl appointed him to associate vice president for administration and public affairs. He went on to become vice president for community and school relations in 2000, a position he retired from in 2007, after which he remained a special assistant to the president until his passing.
Hill’s association with the university began in 1959 when he became a graduate student in the College of Education. He would later enjoy years of active participation in the Texas Exes with the goal of increasing the number of African American students on campus. When Hill graduated from Anderson High School in Austin as salutatorian, he could not attend the university. It was not yet integrated. Instead, he graduated in 1953 from Huston-Tillotson College (University). There he built relationships that would prove beneficial to the university during his tenure.
Throughout his university career, Hill became a role model for students, faculty members and administrators, especially among African Americans. He was active on the Martin Luther King Jr. Statue committee, the Barbara Jordan Historical Essay Competition, Affirmative Action working committees, and the Austin Entrepreneurial Project. He was also a strong supporter of the Black Faculty and Staff Association (BFSA), formerly known as the African American Staff Advocating Progress (AASAP).
Hill’s distinguished career included many honors such as the Heman Sweatt Legacy Award from the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement and The University of Texas at Austin, the Whitney Young Urban League Award given by the Austin Urban League and the National Forum of Black Public Administrators Marks of Excellence Award. However, a recognition that held special meaning for him was the Lifetime Achievement Award presented by the Black Faculty and Staff Association in 2006. The group also recognized Hill’s dedication and service to the university community in 2001 with the Dr. James L. Hill Education Scholarship, now endowed and administered through the Texas Exes.
Hill died on September 2, 2012. He was 84.