Dr. Andrew Jay Hankins is retired now. He lives in the Detroit area, but for four years, from 1961 to 1964, he lived in Iowa City while he attended the University of Iowa on a basketball scholarship.
Hankins grew up in north Chicago and played basketball in Waukegan, making the Illinois All-State team in 1960 and graduating 17th in his class of 520.
He originally had his sights set on going to Notre Dame, but his big brother, Grover, a student at Augustana College in Illinois, visited the University of Iowa campus and decided his brother should study and play basketball there.
Hankins signed with Iowa in June 1960 to play for Coach Sharm Scheuerman.
After enrolling at Iowa in September, he started his premed classes and began practicing with the Hawks as a 6-foot guard.
But it was off the court that Hankins made history.
On March 17, 1961, Hankins became the first Black student to pledge a white social fraternity, Delta Chi, at the University of Iowa. Like a growing number of fraternities at the time, Delta Chi had placed a no-discrimination clause in its national constitution.
Hankins was accepted by a unanimous vote of fraternity members.
“Hankins, with a B-plus grade average, is majoring in medicine,” The Gazette reported. “A fraternity member said Hankins visited the Delta Chi house, ‘we liked him and we pledged him, just as we would any other rushee.’ ”
At the time, the UI had 19 white social fraternities and one Black fraternity, Kappa Alpha Psi.
Hankins wrote his family and friends, telling them he looked forward to introducing them to his fraternity brothers on Mother’s Day weekend.
Hankins, however, was a member of Delta Chi for six weeks before he was de-pledged — before Mother’s Day.
Richard Boe was president of the Delta Chi chapter when members voted to de-pledge Hankins on May 1. He walked out after the vote and moved out of the Delta Chi house.
“I feel the chapter has made a bad mistake,” Boe said. “They knew before they voted that if Andy didn’t stay, I wouldn’t stay.”
Hankins didn’t comment about his ouster, but one fraternity member, Jerry Parker of Ottumwa, said “undoubtedly it was pressure from the national office and other chapters” that caused some of the fraternity’s members to de-pledge Hankins.
Delta Chi’s national organization denied it had pressured the local chapter, though its president visited the UI chapter five days after Hankins was pledged and again in May when Hankins was de-pledged.
Sewell and Phil Allen, brothers who had been past officers of the Delta Chi at Iowa, objected to the de-pledging, calling it a mistake and telling members “the magnitude of it will haunt you for a lifetime. You have not only failed in your understanding of the main principle of fraternity, but because you did not fight for your brother when the voices of darkness were heard, you have also failed in your understanding of one of the values of a liberal education, namely the capacity to judge a human being for what he is rather than by the color of his complexion.”
The Cedar Rapids branch of the NAACP, as well as some UI professors, asked university officials to investigate. President Virgil Hancher said an investigation was being done by the Office of Student Affairs.
When the de-pledging incident was brought up at the state Board of Regents meeting in Iowa City on June 23, Hancher said “color was not a major factor.”
In April 1962, a panel discussing racial discrimination in off-campus housing was critical of Hancher and Dean of Students M.L. Huit. An investigation concluded that while most Greek organizations had eliminated discrimination from their constitutions, the language was replaced with subtle “gentlemen’s agreements,” “underground clauses” and “acceptability clauses” that continued to restrict membership.
In 1963, the UI established a Committee on Human Rights chaired by law professor Willard L. Boyd, who would become the UI president in 1969. The committee’s purpose was to work toward eliminating discrimination at the local and state level. Hankins served on an advisory committee.
Boyd told fraternity and sorority leaders, “I am not telling you to take in Negro members, but if there ever was an appropriate time to do so, it is now. If you purport to be leadership organizations, then there is no more important area in which to lead than that of human rights.”
Hankins continued playing basketball at Iowa, lettering his senior year. In 1963, he was named to a national honor society, Omicron Delta Kappa, and to Phi Beta Kappa in 1964, the year he graduated from Iowa with honors.
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He went to the University of Michigan Medical School, interning at Michael Reese Hospital in Chicago. He was a captain in the U.S. Air Force from 1969 to 1971 and completed his medical residency in the University of Chicago’s Department of Radiology.
In 1991, he went to the Henry Ford Health System’s Department of Radiology in Detroit, where he was director of the radiology facility when he retired in 2012. He also taught radiology at Wayne State University in Detroit.
Along the way, the UI awarded Hankins its Distinguished Alumni Award.