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A dining hall at Yale University has been named after Rhodes Scholar Roosevelt Thompson, a Little Rock Central High valedictorian who died in a 1984 car accident after spending spring break with his family in Arkansas.

Thompson, part of the Yale Class of 1984, died at age 22, less than two months before graduation.

On Nov. 10, Thompson's family and classmates, among others, gathered in Calhoun College on the Yale campus in New Haven, Conn., to honor Thompson's life.

"We used to have the loudest, most boisterous, mostly civil conversations here, and then Rosey, with the precision of a surgeon, would make a wise, fact-based argument, and we'd all say 'huh' and move onto the next topic," said Thompson's friend and classmate Errol Crook, according to a Yale University news release. "It was really the center of our Yale education, so I can think of no better place to name after Rosey."

The morning of the ceremony, officials received a letter from President Bill Clinton, who graduated from Yale's law school in 1973.

"It was clear to anyone who spent time with Rosey that he was remarkable," Clinton wrote about Thompson, who had spent several summers as an intern for Clinton, then governor of Arkansas. "When he won the Rhodes scholarship, it must've been the easiest decision the selection committee ever made."

In 2015, a group of students began an online petititon demanding that Yale rename Calhoun College. The college is named after John C. Calhoun, a 19th-century politician and white supremacist.

Thompson is black. His name came up as a possibility to rename the college this year stemming, in part, from an opinion piece published in the Yale Daily News by student Alex Zhang, a former Little Rock Central High graduate who had heard stories about Thompson's achievements and character.

Yale officials, however, announced in April that Calhoun College's name would remain as is. By then, Calhoun's portrait was removed from the dining hall. The administration then announced over the summer that the dining hall would be renamed after Thompson.

A portrait of Thompson now hangs on a wall of the dining hall. At the bottom of the portrait, artist Mirjam Brückner included an image of an apple blossom, the Arkansas state flower, and a mockingbird, the Arkansas state bird and a symbol of human rights.

At Yale, an undergraduate prize for public service is named in Thompson's memory. The auditorium of Little Rock Central High and a branch of the Central Arkansas Library System are named after Thompson. A scholarship in his name is awarded to Central students.

Metro on 11/18/2016

Print Headline: Yale honors student killed in '84

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Archived Comments

  • PopMom
    November 18, 2016 at 8:20 a.m.

    A great light was snuffed out way too early. I've wondered how Arkansas politics could have been different if he had lived.

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