Ron Dunlap: Appleton’s First African American Administrator

Black History Month

“Somehow God had given me the height, and I worked on the talent and somehow I ended up getting drafted by the Chicago Bulls as a 19th overall pick.”

Ron Dunlap eventually made his way to northeast Wisconsin, but he made his mark in the world of basketball after he was the first black player to play professionally in Israel. He says being a basketball player then was not the glamorous life it is now.

“I think about it you look at the league now and no one can tell about the challenges that came before LeBron before Michael before Carmelo Anthony there were people who paved the blaze some trails.”

When he moved to Appleton as principal of Lincoln Elementary, he was one of three black school administrators in all of northeast Wisconsin. His wife Yvette was one of them when she became a principal in Kaukauna.

“The amount of diversity was lacking the Appleton area school district at the time was only at the most 3% ethnic and the ethnicity was primarily taken up by Hmong students so it was there were no other black teachers they were very few if any black students.”

Dunlap says his interactions with colleagues and parents were mostly positive, but there were some who weren’t so readily accepting. That’s why he felt it was his duty to be vigilant in how he presented himself.

“It was a responsibility for me to conduct myself in a very positive manner because these children didn’t know of any other black people and I was going to be the only person of color black person that they were ever going to meet at least for some time in their life.”

Dunlap retired about 10 years ago, but he speaks fondly of his time in the Appleton school district where he broke barriers. And his students still love him, all 6′ 10″ of him.

“Treat people the way you wish to be treated and always carry yourself with respect and dignity there are kids today that still tell you I would say that and what it meant.”

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