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Lowery Calls Vivian Malone Jones a 'Chaplain of the Common Good'


(March 26, 2009) -- The Rev. Joseph E. Lowery said the late Vivian Malone Jones, who helped desegregate the University of Alabama, lived a life focused on doing great things for other people, making her a “chaplain for the common good.”

“She didn’t go seeking a fortune,” Lowery said during the March 26 President’s Crown Forum in the Martin Luther King Jr. International Chapel. “She worked for civil rights in the Justice Department. She worked for environmental justice. She was using her intellect for the common good. That made her a chaplain for the common good.”

With her family in the audience, Jones, who died in 2005, was honored for her courageous stand – along with James Hood – in becoming the first African Americans to enroll at Alabama. She also was remembered for a lifetime of service to her community.

(Hood left the school two months after enrolling, but later returned to complete his master’s degree.)

A video showed Jones confidently walking through an angry crowd of students in 1963 as she began classes at Alabama. It later chronicled her walk across campus in 1965 in cap and gown when she became the school’s first African American graduate.

An oil portrait of Jones was unveiled during the ceremony and will be displayed in the Chapel’s International Hall of Fame. The family and the College also have initiated the Vivian Jones Malone Lecture Series on Nonviolent Resolution of Conflict. Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin was the series’ first speaker in January.

“For one reason and for one reason alone, Vivian Malone Jones found she could brush aside her fears and face life as it really existed,” said Lawrence E. Carter, dean of the King Chapel. “With an instinctive compassion for her fellow human beings, and a supreme determination, she mustered her courage and quelled her fears, while believing in the destiny of this nation.”
Also during the ceremony, Jones’ brother-in-law, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, said he and President Barack Obama will look to place new federal judges in the judiciary who will better reflect the spirit of judges who made critical decisions in favor of civil rights during 1950s and 60s.

“The Justice Department has not acted in the way that is consistent with the great traditions of that great organization,” he said. “We’re going to have a bunch of new judges. We are bound and determined to reshape the U.S. judiciary in a way you will be proud.”

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