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Carolina pioneer John Lewis Brandon passes away at 80

Brandon and LeRoy and Ralph Frasier were the first three African-American undergraduate students to attend UNC-Chapel Hill.

Leroy Frasier, John Lewis Brandon and Ralph Frasier stand on the steps of South Building
Leroy Frasier, John Lewis Brandon and Ralph Frasier (left to right), on the steps of South Building, 1955. Photo credit: Roland Giduz Photographic Collection, P0033, North Carolina Collection, Wilson Library, UNC-Chapel Hill

John Lewis Brandon, who was one of three men who helped to integrate the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, has passed away. He was 80.

Brandon and LeRoy and Ralph Frasier were the first three African-American undergraduate students to attend UNC-Chapel Hill. They attended in 1955, challenging racial segregation in North Carolina.

All three men went on to earn bachelor’s degrees from other universities, but paved the way for generations of future Carolina students. All three of them became honorees for Carolina’s recent “noteworthy firsts” scholarships.

“John was a courageous pioneer who played a formative and historic role, sacrificing to break down barriers and integrate America’s first public university,” Chancellor Carol L. Folt said. “We cannot be more appreciative of his contribution to the nation.”

Brandon served in the U.S. Navy and graduated from the University of Houston with a bachelor’s degree and master’s degree in chemistry. He later became a senior research chemist at Dow Chemical Co.

LeRoy Frasier passed away on Dec. 29, 2017. He was also 80 years old.