CommunityPam's House Blend

Goodbye, Vivian Malone Jones

What must it have felt like like, knowing that your governor was blocking you from getting an education? You’re a native of that state, your family paid taxes, and the highest official in your state deems you unfit to enter those doors. Vivian Malone Jones sure knew what that felt like. She died yesterday of a stroke at the too-young age of 63.

It hurts even more to know that we’ve also lost Constance Baker Motley (the first black woman appointed to the federal judiciary and who served on legal team that won school desegregation decision Brown vs. Board of Education), mentioned in the story on Vivian Malone Jones from the Alabama Mobile-Register.

Jones, one of two black students to break the color barrier at the university in 1963, became the school’s first black graduate in 1965. Acquaintances remembered her Thursday as a pioneer whose quiet determination made her the perfect person to do it.

“She was a remarkable woman. She was full of grace and enormous courage. She knew exactly what she was doing and why she was doing it,” said Culpepper Clark, the dean of the College of Communication and Information Sciences and author of the definitive book on the university’s integration. “She was aware of the (dangers), and she did it anyway. That is the definition of courage. If I had gone and conducted a national search to find the right person (to break the color barrier), I would have found Vivian,” he added.

Samory Pruitt, the vice president of community affairs at the University of Alabama, recalled meeting Jones in 1995 as part of an effort to endow a scholarship in her name.

“It’s been a tough day,” said Pruitt, who chaired the 2003 “Opening Doors” program, which lauded Jones and 39 other pioneers in celebration of the 40th anniversary of the school’s integration. “It’s an understatement to say she was an outstanding ambassador for this university.”

Jones, along with James Hood, enrolled at the previously all-white institution after winning a federal lawsuit. The lawyer in that case, Constance Baker Motley, died last month.

…Jones graduated from Central High School in Mobile and then attended the historically black Alabama A&M; University in Huntsville before transferring to Alabama. Hood recalled that Jones want to pursue a business degree, which was unavailable at Alabama A&M.;

After graduation, Jones went on to a successful career in the federal government.

A deputy U.S. attorney escorted Jones and Hood into the university on June 10, 1963, and it inspired a Mobile high school junior named Andr?Š Taylor.

The day that occurred, I was sitting there watching with my family. After the story went off the TV, I said, ‘I’m going to go to that school one day,'” said Taylor, who now works as vice president of communications at Alabama Gas Corp. in Birmingham.

Thanks to Blender Fritz for the pointer.

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding