When it came to accepting its first black students, Stanford didn't waste any time. Ernest Johnson was admitted in the same year the school was founded. Johnson's father was regarded as an intellectual, despite only possessing a third-grade education, which was likely due to his in-depth study of Shakespeare.
Beverly Johnson bypassed the black primary school when it came time for his son to begin his studies, opting for a white grammar school. Ernest graduated from high school in 1891 and immediately applied to UC-Berkeley and Stanford. Berkeley accepted him first; he didn't hear back from Stanford initially. As fate had it, Beverly happened to know the eponymous Stanfords from a previous line of work, and the abolitionist family prodded its university's president to accept Johnson.
Reports say Johnson was popular among classmates, an athlete who worked as a printer's apprentice to pay for school. He graduated in 1895, with a bachelor's degree in economics, before attending Stanford Law School. He died of tuberculosis in 1898, a proud alumni of a trailblazing institution. So proud, in fact, that he took his diploma with him to the grave.