James Hood was among the first black student to integrate the University of Alabama. Hood passed away last week in his hometown of Gadsen, Alabama. Hood was the last key survivor for the historical breakthrough at the university. On June 11, 1963, Hood, and his classmate Vivian Malone, were physically blocked from walking inside the school by then Governor George Wallace.  Although the Deputy U.S. Attorney General accompanied the students, it was Wallace’s intention to stop them from registering. Wallace soon stepped out of the way.

President John F. Kennedy federalized several hundred members of the Alabama National Guard for Hood and Malone on the college campus. The students had been admitted that day to the University of Alabama beyond Governor Wallace’s attempts to deter them but the following day, civil rights activist Medgar Evers was shot to death in Jackson, Mississippi. One week later, President Kennedy introduced new civil rights legislation.

Getting an education as the first black student at the University of Alabama had significant racial challenges for Hood. In once instance, he received a dead black cat in the mail. He had a lone dorm room on a floor shared with federal marshals.  Though he broke racial barriers, Hood left the University of Alabama two months later to avoid a mental breakdown. He earned his bachelor’s degree from Wayne State University then a Masters from Michigan State University in criminal justice and sociology. He later returned to University of Alabama to get his PH.D. in 1997.

Hood served as deputy police chief in Detroit and was the chairman of the police science program at the Madison Area Technical College in Wisconsin. As for the other black student, Vivian Malone, she obtained her bachelor’s degree from U of A and became their first black graduate. After college, she served as a civil rights official with the United States Justice Department and the Environmental Protection Administration. Vivian Malone died in 2005.

(Photo: AP)

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