James Hood became one of the first black students at the University of Alabama when he faced down Gov. George Wallace at the school’s door to help integrate the university 50 years ago.
He died on Thursday in his hometown of Gadsden, where he’s being remembered for proving wrong the saying “Segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever.” From the Tuscaloosa News:
“James did a great thing for the University of Alabama,” said E. Culpepper Clark, former dean of UA’s College of Communication & Information Sciences, and author of “The Schoolhouse Door: Segregation’s Last Stand at the University of Alabama.”
“With Vivian Malone, he liberated the university to serve all the people of Alabama and thereby join the ranks of the nation’s flagship universities.”
Hood and Vivian Malone Jones, who died in 2005, attempted to register and pay fees June 11, 1963, at UA’s Foster Auditorium, accompanied by Deputy Attorney General Nicholas Katzenbach. Gov. George Wallace, surrounded by a phalanx of state troopers, barred them, attempting to keep his infamous inaugural promise of “segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever.” Later that day, Wallace backed down after President John F. Kennedy federalized the National Guard.
That moment was one of four major events in Alabama’s central part in the civil rights movement, Clark said, along with the church bombing in Birmingham earlier in 1963, Bloody Sunday in Selma and the marches from Selma to Montgomery in 1965. The image of Wallace’s jutting jaw, with the stoic defiance of the students, became iconic.
Read more at the Tuscaloosa News.