TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (WHNT) – The defining structure of the Malone Hood Plaza outside Foster Auditorium is the Autherine Lucy Clocktower.
Dutifully marking the passage of time, it’s a nod to the University’s first African-American student, Autherine Lucy, who would be thrown out by defiant university leaders before completing her education.
We’ve etched away 50 years since Governor George Wallace parked himself in the doorway of Foster Auditorium, fulfilling a campaign promise and firmly, if briefly, throwing himself in the path of Vivian Malone and James Hood’s education at the University of Alabama.
Now Malone and Hood are honored outside the building, but still, Wallace’s ghost lurks in the doorway.
What happened at the spot is an inexorable part of University of Alabama and state lore. But what’s striking about Wallace’s words from the doorway isn’t how outlandish or outdated they sound, but rather how easily they could fall from the mouth of many politicians today.
“We are God-fearing people, not government-fearing people,” Wallace said on June 11, 1963. “We practice today the free heritage bequeathed to us by the founding fathers.”
And maybe that’s what haunts us from the doorway. These mistakes came from people, not monsters. We can’t vanquish them. We can only show them the way forward.
So this year, let’s not remember the spectre in the door, but instead the people who pushed past it.
Because George Wallace stood in this doorway, but Vivian Malone and James Hood passed right through him, as if he was already a ghost.