Judy Gladney | St. Louis Public Radio

Judy Gladney

Judy Gladney poses for a portrait at the University City High School auditorium on Oct. 10, 2019.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Before Judy Gladney was among the first black students to integrate University City High School, she and her family were the first black people to move into a gated community in the city called University Hills.

For Gladney, 67, being among the first was almost a family tradition. 

“We were a family of firsts," Gladney said. “My father was a physician. He broke down many barriers. He was the first (black) head of a department of medicine at St. Louis U. We were one of the first black families at Pilgrim Congregational Church. So it was a lifestyle for us to constantly be in diverse environments.”

Erica Vickers Cage Ellen Futterman Judy Gladney
Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio

University City, Missouri, is considered to be among the more diverse communities in a region still grappling with the stubborn legacy of segregation. But five decades ago, things were different in U. City, including at the local schools.

When Judy Gladney began attending University City High School in the '60s, she was one of its very first African American students, and found herself bridging two disparate worlds. So did Eric Vickers, Gladney’s future husband.

Years later, the two would send their children through the same school district, which is now largely nonwhite. As Gladney looked toward her 50th high school reunion this month, she joined St. Louis on the Air host Sarah Fenske on Monday alongside her daughter Erica Vickers Cage and local journalist and storyteller Ellen Futterman.