Forgot your password? Create an account
  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size
  • default color
  • green color
  • red color
Member Area

The Millbrook Independent

Saturday
Apr 19th
Home
UA, UNA decades apart last week
Written by News Desk   
Saturday, 21 September 2013 15:05

bobmartinBy This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , Publisher

Last week at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa it was revealed that two black students had been refused admission to a campus sorority because of their race, one who was confirmed as the granddaughter of former State Supreme Court Justice John England, Jr.

This was at the same time, 122 miles up the road in Florence, a week-long event was underway at the University of North Alabama (UNA) commemorating the 50-year anniversary of the admission of its first black student, Wendell Wilkie Gunn of Tuscumbia. Gunn had been attending college at Tennessee State University in Nashville,a traditionally black institution.

It was back in 1963 at the beginning of the summer session at the University of Alabama when Gov. George Wallace made his "stand in the schoolhouse door" attempt to block Vivian Malone and James Hood from enrolling there. President Kennedy then federalized the Alabama National Guard to ensure the enrollment of the two students.

As I wrote last week, I was fresh out of UNA or Florence State College at that time, working at the daily newspaper in Florence and was assigned to cover the Gunn enrollment story and got to know him in the process. Last week I caught up with Wendell at the Shoals Marriott, where we were both staying. He had brought his family from Stamford, Conn, where they now live and where his business, Gunn Solutions, is located.

"The fact that it happened between 1963 and 1965, a time with a lot of turmoil, and the fact that my matriculation happened without incident is a testament to something," Gunn stated. "Looking back on it, it makes me think there was something special about this area."

Gunn's parents couldn't afford to send him back to Nashville, so he thought, "naively," he said "that since it had already happened at the University of Alabama, they will have to accept me here." As Gunn related to me, he "didn't know enough to be nervous" as he walked into the college administration building and asked for a registration form. "The clerk at the counter said she'd be right back and disappeared. Then the registrar came out, next a vice president, and finally the president, Dr. E. B. Norton, appeared and told me they couldn't register me." Then something strange happened or I thought it was strange. Dr. Norton said to me: "Son, we can't enroll you today, but if you sue us, we'll have to."

Soon after that Gunn said his mother called Tuskegee attorney Fred Gray and the rest is history. Even Gov. Wallace stayed away. "It was the easiest case of my life," Gray has said. It is my perception that Wallace had already taken his public and political stance on the matter, so why cause any more problems? Besides, I believe that on the non-political side of his nature Wallace wasn't as strident on the racial issue as he was percieved to be. In his later years he has confirmed that feeling of mine, but it doesn't excuse the emotional pain he caused many of the people in this state.

By the end of his first year Gunn says the initial atmosphere of silence and heightened security measures eventually developed into campus-wide expressions of warmth, support, and even affirmation. At the Honors Day ceremony the following spring in 1964, Gunn was there as a member of the college choir. When his name was called to accept the award as the school's top physics student, he says he was totally shocked. "I knew I was doing OK in physics, but because not many students communicated with me, I had no idea how anyone else was doing." As he walked to the stage to accept the award he recalls that "the auditorium filled with applause and his eyes filled with tears." He graduated with degrees in math and chemistry in 1965.

Gunn went on to serve in the White House for two years as President Ronald Reagan's international-trade adviser. In addition to his national political service, Gunn worked for many years in the world of corporate finance and eventually founded his own successful software company, Gunn Solutions.

Gunn's warm reception at the University of North Alabama was quite a contrast to what is reported to have happened on Sorority Row at the University of Alabama last week.

E-mail Bob Martin at: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

 
Headline
  • Pause
  • Previous
  • Next
1/3
Please update your Flash Player to view content.
Please update your Flash Player to view content.

 

millbrook

first com bnk front

Please update your Flash Player to view content.
Please update your Flash Player to view content.
Please update your Flash Player to view content.
Please update your Flash Player to view content.

Local Links

The Millbrook Community Players
presents "The Sound of Music"  
February 20-March 2, 2014
The Millbrook Revelers
Bringing you the 2014 Millbrook Mardi Gras Festival
and Parade February 22, 2014
Humane Society of Elmore County
Find a new friend and help a shelter pet.

Top Stories

FOX News
FOXNews.com - Breaking news and video. Latest Current News: U.S., World, Entertainment, Health, Business, Technology, Politics, Sports.
FOX News

Sports

ESPN.com
Latest news from ESPN.com
ESPN logo
  • QBs fail to impress in Alabama spring game
    Alec Morris may have had the biggest impact of any Alabama quarterback during the Crimson Tide's spring game on Saturday. The problem, however, is that he stood out most as a punter, booming 15 kicks for an average of 38.4 yards per attempt.
  • Kelly leaves NYC to continue cancer treatment
    Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly will continue his treatment for sinus cancer in western New York, according to his brother Dan.
  • Raptors GM shouts expletive aimed at Nets
    Toronto Raptors general manager Masai Ujiri shouted "F--- Brooklyn!" at a fan rally outside Air Canada Centre prior to Game 1 of his team's first-round Eastern Conference playoff series Saturday against the Brooklyn Nets.
  • Warriors sink Clippers for Game 1 road win
    Klay Thompson scored 22 points, David Lee added 20 and the Golden State Warriors got Blake Griffin and Chris Paul in foul trouble to beat the Los Angeles Clippers 109-105 on Saturday in their playoff opener.
  • Texas LB Edmond: Loss to 'trash' Baylor hurts
    Texas linebacker Steve Edmond is still bitter over losing the Big 12 title to Baylor last season.

Millbrook Weather

The Weather Channel: Your Local Weather Outlook--Millbrook, AL
Local Weather Outlook for Millbrook, AL. Since 1982, The Weather Channel has brought timely weather information to the world. Now via our Local Weather Outlook RSS feed we can keep you up-to-date on the latest weather affecting the cities of your choice including: current local conditions, local Doppler radar, pollen trends, regional video forecasts with expert commentary, and extended forecast details delivered right to your desktop. The Weather Channel...Bringing Weather To Life
The Weather Channel: Local Weather Outlook