From NKAA, Notable Kentucky African Americans Database (main entry)

Ellis, Betty Marie

(born: 1923) 

In June of 1948, the student admission application for Betty Marie Ellis, who was white, was rejected by Kentucky State College [now Kentucky State University] because the Day Law forbid black and white students from attending the same school in Kentucky. Ellis was furious about the law. "Had I the financial and legal backing, I would like very much to contest the law as it stands." Betty Marie Ellis was a civil rights activist who was not working with any particular organization. She was the first white student to apply for admission to Kentucky State College. Ellis was a 25 year old college graduate from Peru, IN, and was studying for a master's degree in religious education at the College of the Bible [now Lexington Theological Seminary] in Lexington, KY. She was also the director of religious education at the First Christian Church in Shelbyville, KY.

She had attended school with Negro children in Peru, IN, where the schools were integrated and so was Manchester College in North Manchester, IN, where Ellis earned her bachelor's degree. In response to being denied admission to Kentucky State College, Ellis wrote letters of protest to Dr. Atwood, President of Kentucky State College; Kentucky Governor Earl Clements; and Boswell B. Hodgkin, Superintendent of Public Instruction in Kentucky. Betty Marie Ellis was the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. A. F. Ellis. For more see the document "Kentucky State College rejects white girl; she blasts governor, Jim Crow laws," Monday, June 14, 1948, p.44 [second page missing] within the file Kentucky State College (Frankfort), Louisville Municipal College, & West KY Vocational Training School (Paducah), part of The Claude A. Burnett Papers: The Associated Negro Press, 1918-1967, Part 3: Subject Files on Black Americans, 1918-1967, Series A, Agriculture, 1923-1966 -- Proquest History Vault; and see Betty Marie Ellis on p.65 in Tracks: Chesapeake & Ohio, Nickel Plate, Pere Marquette, vol. 29, issue 7. See also the NKAA entry for Mrs. Geraldine Cox Ogden, the first white student admitted to Kentucky State College. See also Barry Coleman Moore, the first white football player at Kentucky State College.

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Cite This NKAA Entry:

“Ellis, Betty Marie,” Notable Kentucky African Americans Database, accessed February 28, 2024,

Last modified: 2017-11-03 22:17:45