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Black student advocate mourned in Arkansas

Services for Billy Bauknight, an educator of Pine Bluff, Arkansas were held in Pine Bluff on January 23, 2021. Bauknight was 79.

Billy Eugene Bauknight was born April 3, 1942 to the late James and Melba Stewart Bauknight. He lived in Flint, Michigan with his mother and older sisters.

A longtime resident of Pine Bluff, young Bauknight and his sisters moved to the city following the untimely passing of their mother and lived with their maternal grandparents. He was also close to his paternal grandparents, Mose and Blanche Bauknight.

He was baptized at St. Peter’s Rock Baptist Church by Reverend Roberts.

Chicagoans who were students of Bauknight remember him as the dynamic classroom teacher who helped them unravel the mysteries of science. Joyce Holmes who attended the University of Arkansas during the 70s called him “a dedicated teacher. He was always available, always willing to listen, and was patient.”

Bauknight graduated with the distinction of Class of 1960 Valedictorian from C.P. Coleman High School in Pine Bluff. He continued his education at Arkansas AM&N, now known as the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, graduating in 1964 as a chemistry and math major. He earned what was at the time, the highest GPA in the school’s history.

He completed a Master of Science in chemistry in 1966 from Fisk University. Bauknight later declined his acceptance to Meharry Medical College, choosing education as his profession and becoming what many describe as “an exceptional educator.”

Early in his career, he was employed as a chemistry and math teacher at Star City High School. As his career progressed he also worked as a chemistry instructor at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff.

Recruited by the dean of the college of Medicine at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, Bauknight became the inaugural Director of Minority Student Affairs, currently known as the Division for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.

As director Bauknight played a critical role in the recruitment, enrollment, and matriculation of a multitude of students, leaving as his legacy a myriad of successful African American physicians and other medical professionals. He retired from the university after 37 years of service, recognized as a fearless student advocate.

He holds a special memory for many of the school’s graduates who benefited from his guidance. Retired RN, south sider Mary Smith says of Bauknight, “I wouldn’t have graduated without Mr. Bauknight’s help. He kept me going when I wanted to give up, helping me make sense of the information jumbled in my head and choosing a career path. I couldn’t have done it without him.”

Bauknight also served the community as a board member and chair for GAIN, Inc. and Head Start, Inc.

Initiated as a member of Tau Sigma Chapter, Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc. in 1961, Bauknight was also a longstanding member of the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks of the United States of America.

He is survived by his wife of 54 years, Patricia McDonald Bauknight; and three children, Nichole Bauknight-Boles, M.D., Earnie Bauknight, and Quinto Bauknight; one grandchild, Edin Boles; sisters, Mae Dean Bauk- night Ryles (Leo, deceased) of Pine Bluff, and Joann Bauknight Jones (Cleo), who resides in Chicago and faithful Chicago Crusader subscri- bers; brother-in-law, Milton Liley (Doris, deceased); nephews, David Ryles (Donna), Mark Ryles, Gerald Jones (Pamela), Eric Liley (Mia), Terence Liley, Kenny Bryant, (JoAnn), Melvin Knox (Lynn); nieces, Denise Jones Dickens (Tyrone), Whitney Knox McDonald (Timmy), as well as a host of relatives and friends.

In lieu of flowers the family requested donations to the UAMS Foundation with designation to the Bill Bauknight Center for Diversity Affairs at: Institutional Advancement, Slot 716, 4301 West Markham Street, Little Rock, Ark., 72205.

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