When Lyman T. Johnson questioned the Louisville school board president about why he, a black man, was paid 15 percent less to teach high school than a less-qualified white man, the answer was "oh, well."
Johnson recalled his reaction in an oral history interview: "That doesn't suit me. 'Oh, well', ... that doesn't answer my question."
Johnson wanted his questions answered and had little interest in answers that didn't suit. That's how, a few years after he tangled with the school board, he came to be the first black student admitted to the University of Kentucky in 1949.
It's fitting that UK has named one of its new residence halls in honor of Johnson, a move pushed by the Lyman T. Johnson African-American Alumni Group.
Never miss a local story.
UK had earlier created a fellowship aimed at increasing diversity among graduate students in Johnson's name.
Even more fitting would be keeping Johnson's story, and his legacy, alive for future UK students. Integrating UK was only one step in a life of fighting for the right of black people to have the same opportunities as everyone else.
Johnson, who taught history, economics and math at the segregated Central High School, was a member of a group of civil rights activists seeking to integrate UK and the University of Louisville.
The group searched for "a real brilliant young high school graduate," to apply, Johnson said, but those they approached all declined.
So Johnson, at 43, a husband and father of two with an established career, a bachelor's from Virginia Union University and a master's from the University of Michigan, applied to take some summer graduate courses at UK.
When admission was denied, Johnson challenged UK in court, represented by future Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall and others, and won admission.
Johnson's story doesn't end there. Throughout the following decades he led the effort to integrate Louisville and Jefferson County neighborhoods, swimming pools and schools. He died in 1997 at age 91.
In 1991, when the black alumni group formed, a former student of Johnson's in Louisville remembered him as an excellent teacher, "a very principled and outspoken man." Jerry L. Stevens said Johnson "used his position as a civil-rights leader to challenge his students to be instruments of change."
It's a good challenge, one that should be put to every generation of students.