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Sat, 07.25.1942

Vivian Malone, Activist born

Vivian Malone

*On this date in 1942, Vivian Malone was born.  She was a research analyst and civil rights activist.  

Vivian Juanita Malone Jones was born in Monroe County, Mobile, Alabama the fourth of eight children. Her parents both worked at Brookley Air Force Base; her father served in maintenance and her mother worked as a domestic servant.  Her parents emphasized the importance of receiving an education and made sure that their children attended college. Each of Malone's older brothers attended Tuskegee University.  Her parents were also active in civil rights and often participated in local meetings, donations, and activities in the community that promoted equality and desegregation.

As a teenager, young Malone was often involved in community organizations to end racial discrimination and worked closely with local leaders of the movements to work for desegregation in schools.  Malone attended Central High School, where she was a member of the National Honor Society.  In February 1961, she enrolled in Alabama Agricultural and Mechanical University, one of the few colleges for black students in the state. She attended Alabama A&M for two years and received a bachelor’s degree in Business Education.  Malone had wanted to pursue a degree in accounting, a field of study not offered by Alabama A&M at the time. Moreover, the bachelor's degree Malone received was issued to her before the University had been fully accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. To earn an accredited degree in accounting, Malone would have to transfer to another university.  

In 1961, she had received word from a family friend that the local Non-Partisan Voter League had organized a plan to desegregate the University of Alabama's branch school in Mobile. Due to her exceptional performance in high school, Malone was one out of a number of local Black students the organization suggested applying to the Mobile campus. At least 200 Black students had applied to the university only to have their applications rejected by admissions.  The university denied admission to the applicants on the grounds of over enrollment and closed enrollment, the quotas already being filled or the academic performance of the students not meeting required standards; however it had become fairly understood by the community that the university would not admit the Black students because of resistance to school desegregation.  

On June 11, 1963, Malone and James Hood, accompanied by United States Deputy Attorney General Nicholas Katzenbach and a three-car motorcade full of federal marshals, arrived at the University of Alabama's campus with the intention to enroll.  Waiting for them on campus and blocking the entryway to Foster Auditorium was Governor George Wallace, flanked by a group of state troopers. Wallace intended to keep true to his promise of upholding segregation in the state and stopping "integration at the schoolhouse door".  As Malone and Hood waited in a car, Deputy Attorney General Katzenbach and a small team of federal marshals confronted Wallace to demand that Malone and Hood be allowed entry by order of the state court and for Wallace to step aside.  Wallace had not only refused the order, but he interrupted Katzenbach; in front of the crowds of media crews surrounding him, Wallace delivered a short, symbolic speech concerning state sovereignty, claiming that "The unwelcomed, unwanted, unwarranted and force-induced intrusion upon the campus of the University of Alabama ... of the might of the Central Government offers frightful example of the oppression of the rights, privileges and sovereignty of this State by officers of the Federal Government."

After seeing that Wallace would not step aside, Katzenbach called upon the assistance of Robert Kennedy to force Wallace to permit the black students' entry into the university.  Katzenbach took Malone up to her dormitory and told her to see her room and eat lunch alone in the dining room if she became hungry. Malone went downstairs into the dining room and was surprised to be joined by several white students, who ate lunch with her. She remained in the dormitory until the situation was determined to have calmed down Despite earning high academic achievements from the university, she did not receive any job offers in Alabama.  She later joined the civil rights division of the U.S. Department of Justice and served as a research analyst.  While in Washington, she attended George Washington University and pursued a master’s degree in Public Administration.

She took a job as an employee relations specialist at the central office of the United States Veteran's Administration.  She was appointed to a position as the Executive Director of the Voter Education Project and worked towards voter equality for minorities, thus assisting millions of Blacks to register to vote. She later became the Director of Civil Rights and Urban Affairs and Director of Environmental Justice for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, a position she held until her retirement in 1996.  In October 1996, Jones was chosen by the George Wallace Family Foundation to be the first recipient of its Lurleen B. Wallace Award of Courage.  In 2000, the University of Alabama bestowed on her a doctorate of humane letters.   Vivian Malone Jones died following a stroke at age 63 on October 13, 2005, in an Atlanta hospital. Her funeral services were held at the Martin Luther King Jr. International Chapel at Morehouse College.  Jones was She was a faithful member of From the Heart Church Ministries of Atlanta where she served as an usher.  

She was married to Dr. Mack Arthur Jones, a physician, who died in 2004. She was survived by a son, a daughter, three grandchildren, four sisters and three brothers. She was a faithful member of From the Heart Christian Ministries of Atlanta where she served as an usher. Her brother-in-law is Eric Holder. Her nephew Jeff Malone was an All-America basketball student-athlete at Mississippi State University and the NBA. 

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