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Hood, integrated University of Ala., dies

Jan. 19, 2013 at 11:15 AM   |   Comments

GADSDEN, Ala., Jan. 19 (UPI) -- James Hood, one of the first black students to attend the University of Alabama, has died at his home in Gadsden, Ala., a funeral home official said. He was 70.

Hood's attempt with Vivian Malone to enroll at the university in 1963 set off a confrontation that made Gov. George Wallace a national figure. Wallace, who had promised "segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever" in his inaugural address, stood in the doorway of a university building to keep Hood and Malone from entering.

The two black students eventually enrolled, escorted by federal marshals and National Guardsmen.

"I didn't have sense enough to be scared," Hood told the Green Bay (Wis.) Press-Gazette in a 2005 interview. "At 19 years old, I didn't believe I could die. I had been assured by the president of the United States that he would do everything in his power to assure that we would live."

Hood transferred to Wayne State University in Detroit two months later and spent his working life as an administrator at the Madison Area Technical College in Wisconsin. He returned to the University of Alabama in the 1990s to earn a doctorate, the Los Angeles Times reported.

He became friends with Wallace, who apologized for his actions 30 years earlier. Hood said both of them had internalized southern attitudes.

"If George Wallace was a racist, then I was a racist too, because at the time I believed we were inferior to white folks," Hood said in an interview with the Chicago Tribune. "That's what I was taught growing up in Alabama."

Hood, a native of Gadsden, grew up there. He attended Clark College in Atlanta before enrolling at Alabama.

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