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September 9, 1963: Dr. Sonnie Hereford, III, who unknowingly was being followed by the KKK, walked his 6 year old son Sonnie Hereford IV to his first day of public school at Huntsville's 5th Avenue Elementary School, making history for the state. Governor Wallace and many others had worked hard to prevent this event from happening, but persistence prevailed and 4 black students integrated in Huntsville that day. They included John Brewton, Veronica Pearson and David Piggee in addition to young Sonnie Hereford. Governor Wallace ordered all public schools in Huntsville to remain closed for the first several days of the school year in an attempt to prevent integration. White parents were infuriated and frustrated and demanded action. As schools integrated in Huntsville, it led to the now famous picture of Governor Wallace reading The Birmingham News with the headline “Huntsville Defies Wallace”.

  • Dr. Sonnie W. Hereford III escorts his son Sonnie Hereford IV into Fifth Avenue School
  • Headlines read "Huntsville Defies Wallace"
  • Dr. Sonnie W. Hereford III escorts his son Sonnie Hereford IV into Fifth Avenue School
  • Dr. Sonnie W. Hereford III and his his son Sonnie Hereford IV return home after their first attempt to integrate Huntsville's Fifth Avenue School was blocked by Alabama State Troopers.
  • Alabama State Troopers fill the campus of Fifth Avenue School to prevent integration of the school. Note the Bragg's Furniture sign in the background, which still stands today on the north side of Governor's Drive.


Sonnie Hereford III and Jack Ellis, Beside the Troubled Waters: A Black Doctor Remembers Life, Medicine, and Civil Rights in an Alabama Town, 2011.

Huntsville African-American History Project, 

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