June 11, 1963: Alabama Governor George Wallace stands at the door of Foster Auditorium at the University of Alabama in an attempt to block two black students, Vivian Malone and James Hood, from attending that school. After being confronted by federal marshals, Deputy Attorney General Nicholas Katzenbach, and the Alabama Army National Guard, Wallace stepped aside.
In his inaugural speech, Wallace used the line for which he is best known:
“In the name of the greatest people that have ever trod this earth, I draw the line in the dust and toss the gauntlet before the feet of tyranny, and I say segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever.”
ATTEMPT TO BLOCK THE DOOR:
On June 11, 1963, Vivian Malone and James Hood, accompanied by United States Deputy Attorney General Nicholas Katzenbach and a three-car motorcade full of federal marshals, arrived at the University of Alabama’s campus with the intention to enroll. Waiting for them on campus and blocking the entryway to Foster Auditorium was Governor Wallace, flanked by a group of state troopers. Wallace intended to keep true to his promise of upholding segregation in the state and stopping “integration at the schoolhouse door”.
As Malone and Hood waited in a car, General Katzenbach and a small team of federal marshals confronted Wallace to demand that Malone and Hood be allowed entry by order of the state court and for Wallace to step aside. Wallace had not only refused the order, but he interrupted Katzenbach; in front of the crowds of media crews surrounding him, Wallace delivered a short, symbolic speech concerning state sovereignty, claiming that “The unwelcomed, unwanted, unwarranted and force-induced intrusion upon the campus of the University of Alabama… of the might of the Central Government offers frightful example of the oppression of the rights, privileges and sovereignty of this State by officers of the Federal Government.”
After seeing that Wallace would not step aside, Katzenbach had called upon the assistance of President John F. Kennedy to force Wallace to permit the black students’ entry into the university. Katzenbach took Malone up to her dormitory and told her to see her room and eat lunch by herself in the dining room if she became hungry. Malone had went downstairs into the dining room, and instead of being harassed by other white students, she had in fact been joined by several of them to eat lunch with her. Malone had remained in the dormitory until the situation was determined to have calmed down.
President John F. Kennedy federalized the Alabama National Guard later the same day, which put them under the command of the President, rather than the Governor of Alabama. 100 guardsmen escorted Malone and Hood from their dorms back to the auditorium, where Wallace moved aside at the request of General Henry Graham. Malone and Hood then entered the building, albeit through another door.
As she and Hood entered the building, they were met with surprising applause from white supporters of integration. They then entered the gym and registered as students of the university, with Malone being accepted into the University as a Junior. Malone’s time spent at the University of Alabama was relatively free of conflict and threats to her safety, with the exception of a spree of bombings that occurred in November 1963 by rioting whites possibly angry with the integration policy.
After much deliberation between the U.S. Marshal and Katzenbach, it was decided that Malone would not be taken out of school or unenrolled because of the bombings. Two years later,in 1965, she received a Bachelor of Arts in business management and became the 1st African-American to graduate from the University of Alabama. She graduated with a B-plus average.
James Hood left the university after only two months but returned in 1995 to begin earning his doctorate degree. On May 17, 1997 he received his Ph.D. in interdisciplinary studies. According to Wallace’s secretary, Wallace’s action was intended to avoid a more violent demonstration by the Ku Klux Klan, which Wallace himself had opposed before embracing the group out of political necessity.
In 1997, Wallace planned to give Hood his degree, but poor health prevented him from attending the ceremony. Hood himself was convinced that Wallace was sincere after that meeting, as he wrote in an interchange following the PBS documentary on Wallace,Setting the Woods on Fire.
Hood attended Wallace’s funeral in 1998, imploring others to forgive Wallace as he had,as Wallace had publicly apologized for his actions. Hood also received a bachelor’s degree from Michigan’s Wayne State University and a master’s degree from Michigan State University. He later moved to Wisconsin, where he worked at the Madison Area Technical College for 26 years.
He retired in 2002 as chairman of public safety services in charge of police and fire training. He would then move back to Gadsden, Alabama, the city in which we was born, where he would pass away at home on January 17, 2013 at the age of 70.
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