Plaintiff In Old Lawsuit Prompting DOJ’s Desegregation Order Reflects On Struggle

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) - Schools in Huntsville make up one of 21 Alabama school districts regulated by a federal desegregation order. The Huntsville City School Board wants to remove itself from that order. WHNT NEWS 19 talked to the man whose lawsuit prompted the order be placed on the school district.

Doctor Sonnie Hereford complained back in the 1960s how he felt Huntsville's school district was operating. He believed one group of people got preferential treatment over another. The man's fight lead to change that still exists decades later.

Dr. Hereford has been around a while. He's come across many people over the years, including Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

"Oh, man. It was one of the greatest experiences I have ever had in my whole life," added Dr. Hereford.

Dr. Hereford felt a connection with Dr. King. Both experienced hatred during their days.

Dr. Hereford witnessed it many years later even as he took his child to school. The young father could not believe where children, who looked like his son, were learning.

"Our school didn`t have a library. We didn`t have a gymnasium. We didn`t have a lunchroom. We didn`t have any school buses," added Dr. Hereford.

The hurt father complained. He and three other parents filed a lawsuit claiming unfair treatment.

"I wanted to try to get things changed for the school and school children to make it different from the way it was for me," added Dr. Hereford.

A judge let Dr. Hereford's son and three other black children go to four predominately white schools in August 1963.

Dr. Hereford's lawsuit prompted the DOJ to place a desegregation order on the school district in 1970.

The school system now wants it removed.

'If the school board is going to be fair in the things they`ll be doing, then perhaps it should be," added Dr. Hereford.

WHNT NEWS 19 asked Dr. Hereford if he wanted the desegregation order removed. He did not want to offer an opinion. He wants to find out more information about the school board's request.

Dr. Hereford says 35 parents initially signed onto the lawsuit. He says 31 of them gave up the fight after receiving personal attacks.

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