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Undergraduate years at DU (1932-1936)

The racial atmosphere at the University of Denver in 1932 was very different from the Denver Public Schools. There was an atmosphere of racial tolerance, and all students were expected to take part in the entire university experience. One of those experiences included wearing a beanie in the freshman year.

Howard, however, proud to be in college, thought beanie wearing was silly. Some upper classmen reported Howard’s feelings to the wrestling coach Granville “Granny” Johnson. Granny took Howard aside and said, “Well, I understand you don’t like the rules we make around here. Where is your beanie?” “Oh, that,” Howard replied. Then Granny grabbed Howard, and rubbed his fist over his head. He said, “Do you want me to do this every day or do you want to wear a beanie?” Howard took the actions as he felt they were intended — nobody would be excluded from rules and events that applied to all students. From that point, Howard participated in freshman class activities fully.

Howard Jenkins, Jr. was the only male, African American freshman at the University of Denver. For sociology, Howard had Professor Robert McWilliams whom he greatly appreciated for dealing openly with race, religion, and other social problems in class. Later, Howard would become a law school classmate of Professor McWilliams’ son, Robert, who would go on to become a federal judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit. They remain good friends today. Dr. Garth was Howard’s psychology teacher and Dr. Holmes introduced Howard to the Cosmopolitan Club. Howard was also involved in football, Phi Beta Sigma, Alpha Phi Alpha, and the Philosophy Club.

Howard Jenkins

After his first year at DU, Howard enrolled at the University of Colorado, Boulder. There was no dorm for African Americans, so most of the students roomed with African American families on Water St. in Boulder. Howard and three friends from Denver – Gilbert Cruter, Bill Pinkett, and Claude Walton – got a job hashing for room and board at the Chi Psi fraternity house in Boulder. After one year at University of Colorado, Boulder, Howard returned to the University of Denver where he graduated in 1936.

Howard Jenkins, Jr. met Alice Elaine Brown in 1935. She was a freshman at the University of Denver. Alice graduated in 1937 from University of Denver and became the first African-American teacher in the Denver Public Schools. Howard and Alice were married in 1940. Alice Jenkins taught at Whittier Elementary School for eight years.