One of the first black students to defy racial segregation at a university in the American south a half century ago has died.
Officials at a funeral home in Gadsden, Alabama said James Hood died Thursday of natural causes. He was 70.
Hood made history in 1963 when he and fellow student Vivian Malone were confronted at the University of Alabama by then Governor George Wallace, who tried to block their entry to the auditorium where they were to register for classes. The students were accompanied by U.S. Attorney General Nicholas Katzenbach in a confrontation still referred to by historians as “the stand in the schoolhouse door.”
Wallace backed down later in the day, and Hood and Malone registered for classes. The governor's capitulation came just months after publicly promising the citizens of Alabama to maintain “segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever.”
University of Alabama President Judy Bonner on Friday remembered Hood as “a man of courage and conviction” for his role in integrating the university. Bonner told the Associated Press that Hood maintained a connection to the school that drew him back years later to earn his doctorate.
Hood was the last survivor among the major figures in the schoolhouse door confrontation. Wallace, who years later recanted his segregationist stance, died in 1998. Vivian Malone Jones died in 2005, and Attorney General Katzenbach last year.