University of Alabama Honors Civil Rights Pioneers
Forty years after Vivian Malone Jones walked past Gov. George Wallace and into history as one of the first Blacks to attend the University of Alabama, she said she has forgiven Wallace for trying to stop her, but can never forget.
The civil rights pioneer spoke last month at a forum commemorating the 40th anniversary of integration at Alabama.
“What he did will be with us forever,” Jones said of what became known as Wallace’s “Stand in the Schoolhouse Door.”
Jones, who was Vivian Malone in 1963, spoke at one of several events held last month by the university that involved key figures in the school’s integration, highlighted by keynote speaker Robert Kennedy Jr.
Jones said she remembered Wallace apologizing to her later for blocking the doors of Foster Auditorium on June 11, 1963. By the time he apologized, she said, age and being shot in an
assassination attempt had taken its toll on the man who once proclaimed, “Segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever.”
James Hood, the second Black student to enroll at Alabama with Jones on June 11, 1963, said he has forgiven Wallace. While some people didn’t think Wallace’s apologies late in life
were genuine, Hood said he truly felt Wallace was trying to make amends. Either way, Hood, who befriended the elderly Wallace, said Wallace helped the push for civil rights.
“We got the 1964 Civil Rights Act as a result of George Wallace’s antics on this campus. It never would have happened had he not chosen that strategy,” Hood says.
In his keynote address, Kennedy recalled the confrontation between Wallace and his father, U.S. Attorney General Robert Kennedy. After his father was assassinated, and during Wallace’s 1972 presidential campaign, Kennedy said, “It struck me then that every nation, like every human being, has a darker side and a lighter side.”
Some people, he said, implying Wallace, appeal to ignorance and hatred, while others, like the civil rights pioneers gathered in Tuscaloosa last month, represent enlightenment and acceptance.
— Associated Press and news releases
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