Christopher Mercer, Among 6 Who Integrated UA Law School, Dies at 88

Christopher C. Mercer, one of the six students who integrated the University of Arkansas School of Law, died Tuesday morning in Little Rock, the UA said. He was 88 years old.

"Jane and I are saddened by the news of C.C. Mercer's death," UA Chancellor G. David Gearhart said in a news release. "We had known him for many, many years and always had the utmost respect for him. He was an outstanding leader and advocate, a great Arkansan and a much loved member of the Razorback community.

"He will long be remembered and celebrated as one of our most influential alumni. We extend our heartfelt sympathies to his family and salute C.C. for his life of service to others."

Mercer was the first African American in the South to be a deputy state prosecutor. He practiced law for more than 58 years, often representing clients of modest means.

Mercer received an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from the university in May 2011. He received the Silas Hunt Legacy Award in April 2012.

"This is a profound loss for the law school community and the legal profession," Stacy Leeds, dean of the law school, said. "Mr. Mercer set the perfect example of a lawyer as community leader and public servant.

"His life is marked by hard work and immeasurable sacrifices, yet he never sought anything in return -- he simply gave."

Mercer was born in Pine Bluff in 1924 and was among the first six African American students to enroll at the UA law school. While there, he supported himself by teaching biology, chemistry and math classes, including a business class for veterans at Carver High School in Marked Tree, the UA said.

He graduated from the law school in 1955 and passed the bar exam with the highest score in his group.

A pivotal figure in the integration of Little Rock Central High School, he was aide-de-camp for Daisy Bates and transported the "Little Rock Nine" to and from school each day their first semester.

He was also a member of the Arkansas Council on Human Relations and served as the Arkansas field secretary for the NAACP.