Unsung heroes to be honored by Georgia State University

ATLANTA — In the living room of her family’s Clayton County home, Myra Payne Elliott has always loved a picture of three very courageous women.

“A lot of people were hurt; some killed. But I wasn’t afraid of that,” she said.

Elliott, along with Iris Mae Welch and Barbara Pace Hunt, desegregated Georgia State University 63 years ago.

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“My mind goes back there. Wow! She really did a lot,” Elliott’s daughter Jocelyn Gleaton said.

Originally, the school was named the Georgia State College of Business Administration.

In those days, Elliott, Welch and Hunt insist they were denied admission because of their race and decided to take the school to federal court.

They won.


“She stayed and she fought. And I’m humbled,” Elliott’s daughter June Harland said.

Within two years of the ruling, integration was alive and well in the state’s colleges and universities.

But the three civil rights heroes never got to attend Georgia State.

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The school still used legislative loopholes to keep African Americans out. But, in time, the practice was stopped.

Today, Georgia State graduates more Black college students than any other nonprofit college in the country. You have Welch, Hunt, and Elliott to thank for that.

“Oh! That just brings so much joy and satisfaction to my heart. Always has,” Elliott said.

Georgia State is now building a memorial garden in honor of Elliott, Welch and Hunt, which is set to be completed this summer.