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UT Martin residence halls to be named for university pioneers

MARTIN, Tenn. – The University of Tennessee Board of Trustees approved in June the naming of two UT Martin residence halls in honor of two people who were pioneers in breaking the color barrier at the university in the 1960s.


The residence hall known as University Village 1 will be named Arnold Pryor Place in honor of Jessie Lou Arnold Pryor, while the residence hall known as University Village 2 will be named Conner Community in honor of Harold Conner Sr.

Currently known as University Village 2, the pictured building will be named Conner Community, while its nearby counterpart, University Village 1, will be named in honor of Jessie Lou Arnold Pryor.

The naming ceremony will be held at 3 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 20, in an area between the two residence halls, located off of Hannings Lane in the southeastern portion of campus. The public is invited to attend the event.


Pryor enrolled in June 1961 as the first Black student to enroll at UTM. She was the daughter of Annie Lou Arnold of Martin, who was a teacher at the Sharon Negro Elementary School.

Pryor majored in education at UTM and graduated on June 3, 1965, the first person of color to graduate after completing a full student career at the university. She went on to earn her master’s degree at the University of Illinois.


One of her mentors and supporters was Conner, the first person of color to serve as a university administrator, joining UT Martin in 1969 as the assistant dean of students, later to be named the assistant vice chancellor for student affairs.


He was instrumental in starting many campus organizations at UT Martin, including the Black Student Association, the Freshman Studies program, the Highest Praise Gospel Choir and the Peer Enabler Program that mentors entering students.


Prior to coming to UT Martin, Conner was the principal at the Weakley County Training Center, where he was able to influence and encourage his students to break the color barrier at the university. The first of his students to accept the challenge was Pryor.


Former chancellor Dr. Keith S. Carver began the naming process in September 2022, saying in a memo to UTM administrators, “Supporting our desire to make the university open and welcoming to all, we seek to recognize two individuals who worked for equal justice for historically underrepresented students on campus and in our state.”

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