Sonnie Wellington Hereford III was born on January 7, 1931, in Huntsville, Alabama.
On September 3, 1963, Hereford was met by an angry mob as he attempted to enroll his six-year-old son in an all-white school. Even after the face off with the white mob, Hereford continued for days to enroll his son until the doors were locked and armed guards dispatched and put in place by Governor George Wallace.
Even more determined to enroll his son in the school, Hereford contacted the federal judge that issued the order to desegregate Huntsville City Schools. The following week, on Monday, September 9, 1963, Hereford successfully enrolled his son at Fifth Avenue School making Sonnie Hereford IV the first African-American student admitted to a previously all-white public school in Alabama.
Hereford later applied to the University of Alabama with the hope of entering their pre-med program and, although he was his class valedictorian, his application was rejected because of his race. Hereford enrolled at Alabama A&M University, graduated in 2 years, and went on to receive his medical degree from Meharry Medical College.
After completing medical school, Hereford opened a medical practice in Huntsville, Alabama. At the Huntsville Hospital, there were only two doctors and they were not allowed to eat in the hospital cafeteria. Only one room was available to African American patients; it served as the delivery room, the operating room and the emergency room. A patient who had been prepped for surgery would sometimes have to be taken off the table and wait while an emergency, such as a woman in labor, was attended to. During his 40+ years of practicing medicine, Hereford delivered over 2,200 babies and served as the attending physician at both Oakwood College and Alabama A&M University.
Hereford was selected as one of the leaders of a new organization, Community Service Committee (CSC). The CSC raised thousands of dollars to bail out jailed students and organized prayer marches and picket lines at stores that discriminated against African Americans.