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*James Hood was born on this date in 1942. He was a Black educator and activist.
From Gadsden, Ala, Hood graduated from Carver High School in 1961 and got involved with the Civil Rights movement through Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. He made history on June 11, 1963, when he and Vivian Malone became the first Black students to enroll at the University of Alabama. This was done while defying then-Governor George Wallace's pledge to block integration of the state's public schools. Hood and Malone registered to attend the all-white state university over the governor's public objections. Five months earlier, Wallace promised "segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever" during his inaugural speech at the Capitol in Montgomery.
On registration day, Wallace stood outside an auditorium at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa in a failed effort to prevent Hood and Malone from registering. President John F. Kennedy ordered Alabama National Guard units to the campus and thwarted the governor’s attempt. Wallace then stepped aside, allowing the students to enter. Samory Pruitt, vice president for community affairs at the University of Alabama, said Hood "was willing to put his life on the line that day and wasn't afraid. He wanted to create opportunities for others." Malone, who entered the University of Alabama with Hood, graduated in 1964 with a degree in management. Malone, whose married name was Jones, died in 2005. Although she was the first Black Alabama graduate, she and Hood were not the first to enroll at the university. Autherine Lucy had enrolled in 1956 but was forced to leave the university after riots broke out.
Hood attended the university for a few months before moving to Michigan and finishing his undergrad at Wayne State University. After completing his master's, he became an educational administrator for Madison Area Technical College in Wisconsin, where he worked as the head of human and protective services for many years. But he returned to the University of Alabama three decades after he left, earning a doctorate in interdisciplinary studies in 1997. Hood met with Wallace in 1996, and the former governor apologized for his actions. He returned to Alabama in 1997 to earn his doctorate in education.
When Wallace died in 1998, Hood attended the funeral, calling the former segregationist a changed man. In 2010, the university honored his pioneering efforts by naming the site of the infamous confrontation the Malone-Hood Plaza. James Hood, 70, died in his hometown of Gadsden, Alabama, according to his obituary notice published on January 18, 2013.