Attorney General Eric Holder Visits Morehouse Campus PDF Print E-mail
By Donovan X. Ramsey -- Black College Wire   

Members of the Morehouse College community filled the Martin Luther King Jr. International Chapel on March 26 to celebrate the life and contributions of civil rights pioneer, Vivian Malone Jones. Jones' brother-in-law, Attorney General Eric Holder was in attendance as Morehouse unveiled an oil portrait of Jones that will hang in the Chapel’s Hall of Fame.

The Maroon Tiger
Attorney General Eric Holder (left), Morehouse President Robert Michael Franklin
Holder visited Morehouse not in a public capacity, but in support of Jones.

Among the other guests were Rev. Joseph E. Lowery, Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin, and former Ambassador Andrew Young.

On June 11, 1963, Vivian Malone became the first to cross the color line enrolling at the University of Alabama accompanied by fellow student James Hood and then U.S. Attorney General Nicholas Katzenbach. She was met at the doors of UA by infamous Alabama Governor George Wallace who had vehemently declared earlier that year, “segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever!”

After graduating, Jones joined the civil rights division of the U.S. Department of Justice. In 1996, she retired as Director of Civil Rights and Urban Affairs and Director of Environmental Justice for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Jones died of complications from a stroke in 2005 at the age of 63. Her funeral services were held at the Martin Luther King Jr. International Chapel at Morehouse.

The guests at Thursday's event commented mostly on Jones' tremendous courage.

“The courage she displayed wasn’t just on that June day,” Lowery said. “The real challenge was when the Attorney General went back to Washington and Wallace back to Birmingham.  She had to have a peace that passed all understanding because it was her calling.”

A longtime friend of Jones, Lowery also went on to describe her as having, “an insatiable thirst for knowledge and the development of her intellect.”

With Jones as an example the Reverend challenged those in attendance to service by ordaining them “chaplains of the common good” and declaring, “ To hell with your career! What is your calling?”

The significance of Attorney General Holder’s presence honoring Jones was not lost on the audience.

“It meant a lot to me to have Eric Holder here,” said David Law, graduating senior sociology major. “To have the first black Attorney General here honoring a woman who’s contribution was made possible by the work Justice Department is tremendous.”

Holder spoke briefly of the legacy of civil rights of his current office. “We’ve seen what can happen when you have an involved Attorney General.”

He continued with a look into the future describing the need for new appointments to the Supreme Court stating, “We are bound to shape the federal judiciary in a way that would make you proud and represent the change that President Obama was elected to achieve.”

At a later press conference Holder elaborated. “Elections have consequences,” he said. “It is natural that the Justices that he [President Obama] appoints will share his beliefs.”

He also addressed the Morehouse student body regarding how students can continue the AUC’s rich tradition of civil rights activism.

“I hope that your involvement goes beyond the Obama administration. Vivian Jones committed her life to justice. It’s a lifetime commitment. Always keep a part of your life dedicated to that which brought you to Morehouse.”

Donovan X. Ramsey is managing editor of The Maroon Tiger, the Morehouse College student newspaper, which originally published a version of this article.

Posted Mar. 27, 2009
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