By: Joni Williams
It is 1963 Tuscaloosa, and a crowd gathers at Foster Auditorium. Two young African Americans walk to the entrance of the building, but they are blocked. A man, said by a nearby reporter to be George Wallace, is standing in the doorway, refusing them entrance.
The two students that were fighting their way to the door were James Hood and Vivian Malone Jones, both residents of Alabama. Hood and Jones were both furthering their college education at the University of Alabama after the federal district court ordered UA to accept them. Jones had previously attended the Alabama Agricultural and Mechanical University in Huntsville, while Hood attended Clark University in Atlanta.
On June 11, 1963, after a call from General Henry Graham, these two students walked through the doors of the Foster Auditorium, creating a pathway for many other young African Americans to follow.
These students paved the way for the integration of the University of Alabama. Students like Thaddeus Fitzpatrick, an African American UA graduate, are thankful for their predecessors.
“Vivian Malone and James Hood’s courage under the ratio of Alabama can be seen in the same regard as that of Rosa Parks,” Fitzpatrick said.
“Without them, we’d still be fighting for the same right to go to school as white people.”
Jones was the first African American to graduate from the University of Alabama in 1965 with a Bachelor of Arts in business management. Hood later returned to UA in 1995 to obtain his doctorate and graduated in 1997 with a Ph.D. By this time, George Wallace’s heart had softened to African Americans, and he had even planned on presenting Hood’s diploma to him, but couldn’t due to illness
After college, both Hood and Jones both went on to work in civil rights. Jones worked in the civil rights division in the U.S. Department of Justice, serving as a research analyst. Hood was a civil rights activist and also served as chairman of public safety services in Mobile.
On November 3, 2011, The University of Alabama held the dedication of Malone-Hood Plaza, where Coresa Nancy Hogan, the president of the Black Student Union, and James Fowler, the SGA president, were the Master and Mistress of Ceremonies. Important guests included various people in Alabama politics, members from the University Of Alabama Board Of Trustees, members of the University of Alabama System Office, the vice presidents of the University of Alabama and members of the University of Alabama Athletics Department. The guests of honor were Autherine Lucy, the first African American to enroll in the University of Alabama in 1956, the now late James Hood, and the children of the late Vivian Malone Jones.
The children of the late Jones thanked the University for the ceremony and dedication, Lucy was thankful for the clock dedicated to her, and Hood left the crowd with a Tim Duncan quote: “Good, better, best. Never let it rest. Until your good is better and your better is best.”
Before the closing of the dedication program, Coresa Hogan gave a tear-jerking, heartfelt thank you to the guests of honor.
” I am here today because you were here yesterday.”
Fitzpatrick’s Bachelor of Arts degree, earned 50 years after the stand at the school house door, was made possible by Jones and Hood.
“Given that it’s the anniversary, and that I just graduated, I am especially grateful,” he said.