Jackie McCauley, the first Black woman to enroll at Rice University in Houston, Texas, died in Canberra, Australia, on August 9. She was 73 years old.
William Marsh Rice was an oil and cotton tycoon, who when he died was said to be the richest man in Texas. He left the bulk of his estate to establish the Rice Institute for Literature. His will stipulated that only White students were allowed to enroll. In the early 1960s, the trustees went to court to try to overturn the stipulation in Rice’s will that admissions be restricted to Whites. Some alumni sought to keep the Whites-only stipulation in effect but the university prevailed.
In 1965, Jackie McCauley enrolled at Rice University along with Charles Edwards Freeman, an African American man. She was the first black high school student in Texas to be named a National Merit Scholar.
The summer before starting at Rice, McCauley had an internship at NASA, where she did research for the Apollo program. At Rice, her intention was to major in a science, but the social upheaval of the ’60s fascinated her so much that she switched to social sciences. She got married and became involved with Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA). Her grades suffered and she dropped out of Rice after three semesters.
In the 1970s, McCauley became a program director with KLOL, at that time one of Houston’s most popular radio stations. She then moved to KSAN, a radio station in San Francisco, and then to Australia, where she had a radio show called “Shootin’ the Breeze,” which was syndicated in 80 American cities.