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The University of Alabama

UA to Honor 40 Pioneers at ‘Opening Doors’ Event

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – The University of Alabama will honor 40 outstanding pioneers who played key roles in breaking racial barriers on campus as part of “Opening Doors,” a three-day program planned for June 9-11 to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the first successful enrollment of African-American students at UA.

The 40 individuals were chosen for their contributions to overcoming racial barriers at UA from 1956-1976, a 20-year period in which dramatic changes took place both on the UA campus and across the nation. They include African-American students who broke color barriers in specific areas of the UA campus as well as individuals who were involved directly with the desegregation of the University.

The Pioneers will be honored June 10 at a Pioneer Scholarship Dinner and a Pioneer Recognition Program. The events will benefit UA’s existing scholarships in honor of Foster, Jones and Hood. Attendance is by reservation only. Table sponsorships begin at $2,500 and individual tickets are $250.

“We are honored to be able to recognize these individuals who had the courage to take a stand for change and inspire all of us to do likewise,” said Samory Pruitt, assistant to the UA president for corporate and community affairs and chair of the planning committee of “Opening Doors.”

The Pioneers are as follows:

Autherine Lucy Foster — in 1956 became the first African American to enroll at UA. Following three-days of tumultuous demonstrations, she was suspended and later expelled by the Board of Trustees. She earned a master’s degree from UA in 1991, during the same ceremonies in which her daughter, Grazia, received her bachelor’s degree in finance.

Dr. James Hood — with Vivian Malone, one of the first two African American students to enroll at UA in 1963 during the “Stand in the School House Door.” Hood returned to UA to earn his doctorate in 1997.

Vivian Malone Jones — with James Hood, one of the first two African Americans to enroll in 1963 during the “Stand in the School House Door” and the first African American to graduate from The University of Alabama, in 1965.

The Honorable Bill Baxley — 1963 law student, former attorney general and lieutenant governor of Alabama. As attorney general, Baxley appointed the first African-American assistant attorney general, Myron Thompson, who later became a federal judge.

John Bivens — student leader during the 1970s and among the first African American Association presidents, today a highly successful attorney.

Scott Henry Black, Jr. — 1963 Crimson White editor, who facilitated articles that documented the story of UA’s integration.

Dr. John L. Blackburn — 1963 dean of men, who helped students participate in the University’s desegregation and for whom the Blackburn Institute for Student Leadership is named.

James Blackmon — barber and friend to James Hood, who was contacted by federal officials to assist Hood during his efforts to integrate UA.

Terry Points-Boney — active in residence life and campus leadership, became UA’s first African American homecoming queen in 1973.

Buford Boone — former editor of The Tuscaloosa News, recipient of a Pulitzer Prize for his editorials in support of integration.

The Honorable Delores Boyd — in 1970 the first African-American member of UA’s debate team, who, after practicing law since 1976, was recently appointed United States Magistrate Judge for the Middle District of Alabama.

The Reverend Sylvester Croom — father of successful football player under Paul “Bear” Bryant, Sylvester Croom, who also served as chaplain for UA athletes. He later served as a Tuscaloosa pastor and community leader.

Morris S. Dees — student leader in the late 1950s and co-founder of the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Dr. Arthur Dunning — among the first class of African-American undergraduates following Vivian Malone Jones’s graduation, who currently serves as vice president for public affairs and outreach at the University of Georgia.

The Honorable John England — one of the first African American graduates of UA’s School of Law, who is currently a member of Board of Trustees of The University of Alabama.

Edna Miller Gardner — among the first African-American master’s students in 1966, currently a retired educator.

Fred Gray — attorney for the NAACP during the Montgomery bus boycott, who later represented Vivian Malone Jones and James Hood in their successful suit against the University Trustees. He currently serves as president of the Alabama State Bar Association.

The Reverend Emmet Gribbin — pastor of Canterbury Episcopal Chapel, who displayed courage during the violence associated with the enrollment of Autherine Lucy in 1956 and the hostility with which some greeted the enrollment of James Hood and Vivian Malone in 1963.

Dean Sarah Healy — 1963 dean of women, who played a pivotal role in facilitating the enrollments of Autherine Lucy, James Hood and Vivian Malone.

Wendell Thomas Hudson — first African-American men’s scholarship basketball player at UA in 1970.

Wilbur Jackson — one of the first African-American scholarship football players at UA in 1970.

Burt Jones — 1963 residence hall director, who played a key role assisting Dean John L. Blackburn in facilitating the enrollment of James Hood and Vivian Malone.

Sylvester Jones — first African-American executive vice president of SGA and student representative to the UA Board of Trustees in 1975.

Diane Kirksey — student leader and founding member of UA’s African American Association, who was the first African-American Bama Belle and first African-American member of the homecoming court.

Ralph Knowles — 1967 SGA president, who has been known as a humanitarian and defender of human rights and is currently an attorney in Atlanta.

George LeMaistre — Tuscaloosa community leader and prominent businessman, who publicly addressed the need to rally to the cause of law and order in his speech “The Price of Defiance.”

Brenda McCampbell Lyons — outstanding student who became the first African-American cheerleader in 1973, now a retired educator.

Dave Mack McGlathery — first African-American to enroll at the University of Alabama-Huntsville on June 12, 1963, the day following the “Stand in the School House Door.” McGlathery enrolled without incident.

Joseph W. Mallisham — community leader and first African-American elected to the Tuscaloosa County Commission.

Dr. David Mathews — UA president from 1969-1980, who was instrumental in building a diverse campus and who appointed the first African-American special assistant to the president. He currently serves as president of the Kettering Foundation.

John Mitchell, Jr. — 1972 UA All-American football player, who is in his 24th season of coaching, currently defensive line coach for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The Honorable Constance Baker Motley — NAACP Legal Defense Fund attorney, who was the principal in the cases of Autherine Lucy, James Hood, Vivian Malone Jones and Dave McGlathery. She currently serves as a judge in New York Circuit Court.

Ozzie Newsome, Jr. — UA All-American football player and humanitarian, who in 2002 became the first African-American general manager in NFL history.

Kathy Elmore Sawyer — leader of African American Gospel Choir and charter member of one of the first African American sororities at UA, who currently serves as the Commissioner of Mental Health for the State of Alabama.

Arthur D. Shores — Birmingham attorney who was lead counsel for Autherine Lucy and Pollie Anne Myers and who worked with the NAACP Legal Defense Fund team to successfully desegregate UA. Myers had applied to the University with Lucy, but the Board of Trustees rejected her application.

Donald Wilbur Stewart — SGA president in 1963, who as a student leader invited James Hood to his lunch table in Paty Hall, thereby rallying students to assist Hood in his daily schedule. He went on to become a United States senator and successful attorney in Alabama.

Cleophus Thomas, Jr. — in 1976 became UA’s first and only African-American SGA president. He is a UA trustee emeritus.

Dr. Archie Lee Wade — among the first African-American faculty members at UA and mentor to many students during the 1970s.

Donald V. Watkins — appointed by President David Matthews as special assistant in 1974, currently a successful attorney and businessman.

Dr. Joffre T. Whisenton — in 1966 became the first African-American doctoral student to earn a Ph.D. from UA, who currently serves as a higher education consultant.

For more information on “Opening Doors,” visit the UA Website at www.ua.edu/openingdoors/ or contact Samory Pruitt at 205/348-8375.

Editor’s Note: To arrange interviews with the Pioneers, please contact Pruitt directly or call Cathy Andreen in the UA Office of Media Relations at 205/348-8322. Historic photos of some Pioneers are available. Contact Andreen to request photos. For a full schedule of “Opening Doors” events, go to www.ua.edu/openingdoors/.

The University of Alabama, a student-centered research university, is experiencing significant growth in both enrollment and academic quality. This growth, which is positively impacting the campus and the state's economy, is in keeping with UA's vision to be the university of choice for the best and brightest students. UA, the state's flagship university, is an academic community united in its commitment to enhancing the quality of life for all Alabamians.

  • CONTACT: Cathy Andreen, Director of Media Relations, 205/348-8322, candreen@ur.ua.edu
  • SOURCE: Samory Pruitt, chair of the "Opening Doors" planning committee, 205/348-8375