I recently had the pleasure of introducing Paul Jones to speak to the Black Law Student Association at the University of Alabama. Dr. Jones is one of our nation’s leading collectors of African American art. He was born in the 1920s in Bessemer (a town near Birmingham) and grew up there. He shared a dream of generations of boys in this state–to play for the University of Alabama’s Crimson Tide. But he could not realize that dream. Instead, he played for Alabama State. Then, in 1949, as a student at Howard University, he applied to the University of Alabama’s law school. Again, he was a generation too early. He was told that while the administrators here were aware that the United States Supreme Court might mandate that the University admit students like him, he should not pursue a lawsuit:
While this may be gratuitous, I am adding that we at the University of Alabama are convinced that relationships between the races, in this section of the country at least, are not likely to be improved by pressure on behalf of members of the colored race in an effort to gain admission to institutions maintained by the State for members of the white race. On the contrary, we feel that inter-racial relationships would suffer if there is insistence that the issue be joined at this time. The better elements of both races deplore anything that tends to retard or jeopardize the development of better relationships between the races. For these reasons, therefore, we hope that you can persuade yourself not to press further your application for admission here.