Sesquicentennial Lecture Series
Auburn University Desegregates
Speakers: Martin T. Olliff and Harold Franklin
Date: September 12, 2006
Auburn University Desegregates
Martin T. Olliff and Harold A. Franklin
Announcer, Dwayne Cox, Head, Special Collections and Archives:
[Welcome to] the next installment in the Sesquicentennial Lecture series. A couple of announcements before we get started: There will be a reception afterwards, refreshments in the room behind the reference desk. On sale there will be copies of an Alabama Review article that Dr. Olliff wrote on the desegregation of Auburn University. I am sure, if you twist his arm and Dr. Franklin’s arm, they will sign copies for you.
We will have a question and answer period. You are asked to go to the mike, there, for your questions because the lectures are being recorded, and we want to record your questions for posterity.
The Sesquicentennial Lectures are sponsored by the Center for Arts & Humanities, by the Sesquicentennial Committee, by AU Outreach, by the Libraries, the University Libraries, and who else? Did I leave anyone out? Theresa? The subcommittee that planned the lectures in addition to myself were Ralph Foster, here in the blue shirt, in the front, and Jay Lamar, so thanks to Ralph and Jay.
We have two speakers today. The first as I have already said is Marty Olliff. Marty is a graduate of Auburn University, he has a PhD from Auburn University. He was at one time a faculty member at Auburn University. He even achieved tenure in this very department, and then he decided to go off to Troy—Dothan where he is head of the Archives of the Wiregrass. Is that true? [unintelligible] Close enough, close enough.
Marty will be our first speaker today. He will set the stage and then, as you know, we have Dr. Harold Franklin who was the first African American admitted to Auburn University. He will give his personal story of that experience. I would add, too, that Dr. Franklin’s wife is with him today, and I have it on good authority that Jeff Etheridge, the University photographer, was in her fourth grade class, and that she has had him on the business end of a paddle, more than one time. So, without further ado, Marty Olliff.
Speaker, Martin Olliff:
Thank you, thank you. It’s always a great day to wake up in the morning, look in the obits, and not find yourself there. That does mean you have to go to work, but today I didn’t have to. I got to come here instead, and what a privilege and a pleasure it is to be before you today, to have been asked to come to speak with you about the desegregation of Auburn and also to be on the same platform with my friend, Harold Franklin, Dr. Harold Franklin, and well deserved that degree is. It’s nice also to look out over the crowd and see so many, first of all people who I don’t know and hello to you, and friends, good friends (I see so many of you in here), and to see so very few enemies among you.
One of the most important things that’s ever happened at Auburn, really and truly when we think about it, is the desegregation of Auburn, and that occurred on a drizzly Saturday afternoon of January 4th, 1964, when Harold Franklin broke the color barrier by registering for classes in this very building, upstairs toward the front. I think I have identified exactly the spot he was sitting at.
Let’s try to do a little technology here.
[slide: student Harold Franklin, walking on a sidewalk]
Auburn’s president at that time, Ralph Brown Draughon, negotiated this important moment in the ongoing confrontation between pro- and anti-segregation forces to a successful, though a limited, conclusion. Auburn experienced neither the riots nor the violence that other campuses experienced, and, on Sunday morning, the newspapers reported that dignity and decorum had prevailed. And a few days later the student newspaper The Plainsman headlined that Franklin’s arrival was just “another day on the Plains.” This lead-up however to Dr. Franklin coming to Auburn occurred against a backdrop of violence.
September of 1962 saw blistering riots when James Meredith tried to and successfully did enter Ole Miss. 1963 opened, of course, with George Wallace’s inauguration in which he pledged “segregation now, segregation tomorrow, and segregation forever.” That spring, spring of ’63, vigilantes gunned down a solitary civil rights marcher named Willie Moore outside of Gadsden, and Birmingham was wracked by demonstrations. On May 7th, Bull Connor loosed the fire hoses …
[Dr. Olliff tries unsuccessfully to change the slide, “Oh, well.”]
Bull Connor loosed the fire hoses on May 7th on young marchers in those demonstrations. Five weeks later on June 11th, Gov. Wallace stood in the “school house door” at the University of Alabama, and that same night President Kennedy announced his introduction into Congress of a new civil rights bill.
[slide: Gov. George C. Wallace]
Racists answered immediately, when Byron De La Beckwith gunned down Medgar Evers in Mississippi. August brought the March on Washington, and, in September, Klansmen murdered four little girls at Birmingham’s Sixteenth Street Baptist Church. In November, Kennedy himself was assassinated
[slide: fire hoses being used on Birmingham demonstrators]
There are the fire hoses.
[slide: National Mall, Washington, DC, filled with people]
March on Washington, August.
[slide: Ralph Brown Draughon]
And we’re back.
Keeping the peace at Auburn required leadership and planning, but, most of all, it required a willingness to exploit circumstances and faltering political will. Dr. Draughon, as you see here, was a traditional white southerner who supported segregation, but he was also a rare breed: a racial moderate who worked to improve black educational facilities in the state. He realized that desegregation was inevitable, once the Supreme Court decided Brown vs. Board of Education in 1954, but he delayed admitting black students to Auburn until he could no longer avoid it.
To hold that line, Draughon advocated first to “prevent the focusing of public attention upon Auburn University, to present no target or as small a target as possible to the advocates of integration.” But, then in the 1960s, he changed tactics from quietly opposing desegregation to attempting to control its pace with the idea of handpicking some very, well, very scholarly black students to admit to Auburn. What he was most afraid of was allowing the situation to fall into the hands of the NAACP or other organizations, who would choose their own student to desegregate in a program, but Harold Franklin forced Draughon’s hand in 1963.
Draughon seized the leadership from the University Board of Trustees, who were intimidated by the enormity of the issues, and from Gov. Wallace he seized the initiative. Gov. Wallace had turned his attention away from higher education toward Macon County, quite frankly. Draughon’s actions appeased Judge Frank Johnson’s order to desegregate AU, just as his slowness in opening the Auburn academic gates to African Americans appeased the segregationist state legislature.
Segregation at Auburn, however, began to unravel in November of 1962, when Harold Franklin applied for graduate study in history and government. At that time, he was thirty years old and a recent graduate of Alabama State College, the historically black institution in Montgomery. Six months prior to Franklin’s graduation in 1962, Alabama State lost its SACS accreditation, a situation rooted in the school’s meager level of state funding. How meager was that?
The legislative appropriation for Alabama State between 1956 and 1963 was only 44-71% of the per-pupil funding granted to the University of Alabama, even though Bama had a much higher endowment fund. In addition, governors prorated higher education appropriations (we all remember proration), every year between 1956 and 1961, harming Alabama State even further. The effects of this chronic underfunding compounded over the years, of course, and ultimately became the central reason that Judge Johnson ordered Franklin to be admitted to Auburn for graduate study.
On January 10th, 1963, Dr. William Parker, Dean of Auburn’s graduate school, rejected Franklin’s November application on the slim excuse that Auburn had no graduate program in government. Franklin then reapplied, but Parker rejected his application on Feb. 4th because Alabama State was unaccredited. Parker believed he stood on solid legal ground; that to admit students from unaccredited schools undermined Auburn’s academic standards and threatened Auburn’s own accreditation.
[slide: William Parker]
This is Dr. Parker.
For his part, Franklin believed (and he told me this in an interview) that he had the right to attend Auburn because he was a tax-paying citizen of Alabama. How much more fundamental can you get than that? With the help of attorney Fred Gray, the well known civil rights lawyer who had represented Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, the Freedom Riders, and enumerable others in the Civil Rights struggle, Franklin filed a class action suit in the US District Court for the Middle District of Alabama, the court of Judge Frank M. Johnson, Jr.
[slide: Judge Frank M. Johnson, Jr.]
The suit was filed on August 23rd. Auburn administrators, unaware that Gray and Franklin had planned to sue, were caught flat-footed. In fact, as late as July 17th, Dr. Draughon spoke to the Board and said that he thought that Auburn would have until September of ’64 before they were forced to admit a black student. Well now, even before Franklin’s suit, even before August of ’63, Auburn University officials knew, in toto, that their school would eventually desegregate.
When that time came, Draughon wanted to emulate Clemson’s successful January of 1963 admission of Harvey Gantt. In June of ’63, Clemson’s director of public relations, Joe Sherman, visited Auburn. He advised President Draughon to appeal to the community for moderation and to announce a policy of intolerance for any kind of student disturbance. He also advised his Auburn counterpart, Ed Crawford, to cooperate with reporters in hopes that they would be kind to the school.
Crawford therefore created a “News Central,” as he called it, in the large banquet rooms at the University Inn, just a half block north of the Auburn campus. There, Crawford’s staff would register the reporters, divide them into pools, provide them with press kits, passes, and convenient darkrooms, and furnish them with typewriters, telephones, teletype machines, office supplies, soft drinks, and coffee (the most important thing). Crawford opened News Central at 8 o’clock ultimately on the morning of January 4th, and he kept it open until University officials declared an end to what they called “the crisis.”
Campus security, however, was more problematic. Dr. Draughon wanted to prevent local racists from making mischief at Auburn like the Klan had done in Tuscaloosa in June. So, when Dr. Franklin enrolled, Draughon ordered the campus closed to everyone except authorized faculty, authorized staff, students, reporters, and, of course, the police. He had assigned Col. Lynwood Funchess, the Director of Building and Grounds and the University Civil Defense Coordinator (remember the Cold War), the responsibility of coordinating security. Funchess deputized members of the Athletic Department to patrol campus during Franklin’s registration and to line Franklin’s route to class for a few days once classes began to ensure his safety.
Dr. Draughon asked city, state, and federal agencies for assistance in law enforcement. Gov. Wallace agreed to supply state troopers to augment Auburn city police force and the campus police force, but he denied campus access to all federal agents and refused to provide a bodyguard for Franklin even in the event of a riot. Local church leaders were making their own plans to keep the peace when Franklin arrived. Many feared that Gov. Wallace would force the University to resist desegregation (and he almost did) and create a conflagration like the Ole Miss fiasco. After Judge Johnson ruled in Franklin’s favor on November 5th, 1963, Auburn Methodist minister, Powers McCloud, visited Burke Marshall of the US Department of Justice to offer his assistance.
[slide: Powers McCloud and his family]
At the same time, Wesley Foundation minister Max Hale, the Episcopal vicar Don Marietta, and Presbyterian minister Tom Murphy met with some of the Oxford ministers and a University of Mississippi official in Oxford to discuss ways to keep the Auburn community as calm as possible. The level of suspicion was so high that Max Hale recalled that, while he was there in Oxford and McCloud was in Washington with Burke Marshall, the Mississippi FBI office placed a call to Burke Marshall’s office to inquire about what these Auburn guys were doing over here in Mississippi. McCloud told Marshall, “He’s one of us,” and calmed that Mississippi FBI agent greatly. These ministers worked without the encouragement of Auburn University officials and probably without their knowledge.
[slide: Auburn University Board of Trustees]
Draughon continued to follow his own agenda and orchestrated agreements among the Board, the faculty, the alumni, [and] the students, to maintain the peace when Franklin arrived on campus. The Board, which had told Draughon not to admit black students until the federal court “forced it down our throats” crumbled in the face of Judge Johnson’s November 5th order. The Trustees resolved to fight only through legal channels and to provide Draughon with an unrestricted special administrative fund to pay for security measures.
Governor Wallace objected, but he promised “not to stand in the school house door at Auburn,” and the Trustees also voted on November 23rd to proceed with desegregation as long as Judge Johnson’s order stood. Draughon’s known planning activities in his firm hand inspired confidence as winter quarter approached. The faculty and the Alumni Association both pledged to support calm and order, but Draughon’s primary concern was with Auburn’s 10,000 students. This two-week December break gave agitators and family time to influence those students to resist Auburn’s desegregation. As early as November 14th, Draughon admonished students to make Franklin’s entry as uneventful as possible, but he believed that the situation required stronger measures than a speech or two.
Since the first failed attempt to desegregate the University of Alabama in 1956, Draughon had held regular convocations at his home with student leaders where he brought them slowly but surely over the years in line with his own views. Following this lead, these leaders went to the Student Senate. The Student Senate established emergency rules of conduct to take effect when students returned from winter break and registered. At a meeting on December 3rd with all of the students, Draughon announced these rules, some of which follow.
This is probably the most important one: students should take their firearms home at break. I thought that was pretty important, and they should leave them home during winter quarter. They could bring them back in the spring, but leave them home during winter quarter. Now, if you had to have your firearms with you, then, when you came back to school, you were to deposit them at the ROTC hangar, and you could pick them up when you needed to go kill something.
Another of these rules was that students could not congregate in large groups during registration. Only officially recognized posters, circulars, and newspapers were allowed on campus during registration week.
Finally, returning students had to sign a pledge that they would obey all of these rules under threat of severe discipline. The administration sent a letter to every student’s home explaining this pledge and to make parents aware of these new rules.
[slide: pledge document]
Under direct pressure from Gov. Wallace, the Board of Trustees had Draughon try a final maneuver to obstruct Franklin’s admission. On December 1st, Draughon issued a verbal order to the manager of Magnolia Hall, Charles Bentley, the only men’s dorm on campus.
[slide: Magnolia Hall]
That’s a 1948 picture.
This order said that no more rooms were to be assigned to graduate students. Franklin and Grey sued again on December 16th. University officials could not explain why housing one more graduate student would upset the so-called “delicate balance” between the dorm’s 1,000 residents and its almost two dozen graduate student residents. Why twenty-four was a problem and twenty-three wasn’t a problem, they had a hard time explaining. So do I. They also had a hard time explaining why 300 rooms in the dorm that was substantially larger than this at that time remained vacant. Draughon did not attend the hearing, and, without his testimony, Judge Johnson could not determine why he issued that directive. On January 3rd, one day before registration, the court ordered Auburn to house Franklin like any other student. But guess what?
Franklin wasn’t like any other student, particularly when he arrived on campus on January 4th of 1964. The administration had postponed registration by two days for the most important reason in the world, to accommodate students who wanted to attend the Orange Bowl football game against Nebraska, which was played on New Year’s Day in Miami, Florida, and Auburn lost unfortunately.
Heightening the tension and adding an air of the surreal was the presence of one hundred state troopers that Gov. Wallace had sent to assist with campus security. Supervised by their chief, Colonel Albert J. Lingo, the troopers were not only the strongest police force in the area but were also a wild card. No one knew exactly how they would act or what orders Lingo would give them. On the morning of registration, the troopers took charge of sealing the campus according to Draughon’s security plan. Troopers also seized control of the plans for Franklin’s arrival.
University officials and Fred Gray had worked out an agreement to meet at the intersection of College Street and Samford Avenue, and I didn’t think about it until today, but that was right in front of the Kappa Alpha House at that time (that house being built in 1941). From that point, they were to proceed first to Magnolia Hall and then to the library to register for classes. Now, Magnolia Hall existed where the Lowder business building is now, on that exact spot of ground.
At the last moment (here is where the wild card comes in), Colonel Lingo changed the checkpoint to Samford Avenue and Duncan Drive, west of the wooded Graves amphitheatre and well off College Street. FBI agents watching Lingo’s troopers notified US Attorney John Door of the change. Door, who was at Auburn just as he had been at every other Southern university desegregation, put his own plan into action.
At the same time that this changing was going on, Harold Franklin’s automobile from Montgomery to Fred Gray’s Tuskegee office had a flat tire. This delay gave Gray time to read the morning newspaper, the Montgomery Advertiser, and in it he saw a chilling story. The Montgomery Advertiser reported that Colonel Lingo had publicly ordered his troopers to arrest any federal agent who came on to the Auburn campus, although Lingo “promised no effort will be made to keep Franklin off campus provided he drives his own car or walks.” Gray believed Lingo would arrest Franklin and himself when they arrived at Auburn.
[slide: Martin Luther King and Fred Gray during the bus boycott]
Oh, that’s Fred Gray with Martin Luther King, during the Bus Boycott.
[slide: John Door, Burke Marshall, Bobby Kennedy]
John Door, Burke Marshall, Bobby Kennedy.
Franklin’s flat tire also gave John Door time to contact Gray telling him to skip the official meeting and go directly to Reverend McCloud’s office at the Auburn Methodist Church at the corner of Mag[nolia Avenue] and Gay [Street]. Fearing Lingo’s men would slip a gun into Franklin’s bag to force his expulsion just like the Mississippi state police had tried to do to James Meredith, Door had two FBI agents search the luggage at the church. They could bear witness that Franklin carried no weapons.
[slide: Joseph Sarver]
As the agents finished their search, an angry Joe Sarver arrived. Joe Sarver was Auburn’s director of development and the executive secretary of the Alumni Association, and he was Franklin’s designated escort at both of those checkpoints. When Gray and Franklin failed to appear, Sarver guessed that McCloud had become involved. He later explained in an interview that he “had to get the black student away from the ministers who had kidnapped him.” Sarver told the federal agents and McCloud that they could not travel freely on the Auburn campus, so he would drive Franklin from Gay and Magnolia, down Magnolia to Magnolia Hall Dorm, about a mile west.
At approximately one o’clock, Sarver drove Franklin from the church to the dormitory followed by Gray and Mc Cloud, and Episcopal priest Jim Woodson. When they arrived, Sarver escorted Franklin inside the dorm. Unbeknown to Sarver but with the acquiescence of other University officials, ministers Max Hale and Tom Murphy had stationed themselves inside the dorm lobby early that morning. They acted as John Door’s eyes and ears. Hale and Murphy did not report any trouble, and the dorm manager installed Franklin readily and easily into a room. Officials had cleared students from all three floors of the dorm’s west wing when Franklin arrived. It was there, completely and poignantly alone, that he lived for the rest of the academic year.
Entering the Auburn campus had been difficult and harrowing, but Dr. Franklin still had to register for classes. Dressed against the drizzle, Franklin met two University officials who were to accompany him to the library about a half mile southeast of the dorm. As the three men exited Mag[nolia] Hall, they encountered Colonel Lingo and a squad of troopers. Citing Judge Johnson’s latest order that Auburn was to treat Franklin like any other student, Lingo ordered Franklin to walk alone across campus. He arrived at the library at 2:20.
[slide: Franklin walking to the library in front of several students]
Franklin was met by approximately thirty reporters and photographers who were not part of the press pool allowed inside the building. They had waited about ninety minutes in the rain to get their story, so they were pretty anxious. In addition, contrary to Draughon’s directives in the pledges they signed, between 150 and 300 students (who you see in the background of this picture) crowded across the street from the library steps to see Franklin. Most were merely curiosity seekers, so the police did not disburse them. Some insulted him quietly, and others called out “Tiger meat,” an epithet usually reserved for football opponents that the Auburn team intended to crush -- on the field, of course.
As Franklin approached the library, a state trooper stopped him and demanded to see his student identification card. The crowd laughed at this ridiculous confrontation. Of course Dr. Franklin had no university ID card. The trooper denied that he knew who Franklin was and why he was there. Another trooper intervened, ending the harassment after Franklin produced his driver’s license.
[slide: Franklin at registration table surrounded by reporters]
Once inside, Franklin faced the lights and cameras of a second bevy of reporters and two or three uniformed state troopers who recorded the event for their own reasons. While they rolled film and snapped photographs, Dean Parker welcomed Franklin to Auburn. He seated Franklin at a table where Malcolm McMillan, soon to be head of the history and political science department, sat.
[slide: Franklin and other people sitting at the table surrounded by reporters]
Colonel Lingo appeared to seize charge again. He unilaterally ordered reporters to turn off their sound equipment, even though the University had signed agreements with these reporters to allow that equipment in there. This disruption in Franklin’s academic advising slowed his registration so that it took over an hour. (Just tell that to students next time they complain about registration.)
Once Dr. Franklin secured his courses, he emerged from the rear of the library (approximately where we are) and walked a gauntlet of troopers who watched him. Two white students approached, welcomed Franklin, and shook his hand. The three men parted after a second or two, whereupon troopers seized the students for questioning but then released them within a few minutes. That was Jim Dinsmore and Bobby Boettcher. Six weeks later, columnist Drew Pearson mistakenly identified one of the students as Bill Van Dyke, an all-star guard on the football team. Oops.
When an irate alumna threatened to boycott future games because of the shame Van Dyke brought to the school for his reported act, President Draughon denied that the student was Van Dyke, defended the football team against charges of “liberalism,” and denounced Pearson as a dupe of Powers McCloud who had related the story to him. In actual fact, Billy Van Dyke met Harold Franklin on Dr. Franklin’s first day of class, shook his hand there, in Samford Hall where the classes met, and, according to Van Dyke, made sure that people around him knew that Harold Franklin was not to be harassed.
The “crisis,” as Draughon characterized Franklin’s arrival at Auburn, was over. The day had witnessed no violence and very little mischief. However, the response to Auburn’s non-violent desegregation exposed the political fault lines in the white community of the University and in the state. Alumni outside the state supported Draughon and the school. An alumna from New Jersey wrote “I personally, being from Auburn, am so very proud of the way in which you handled integration there. I know your part has been difficult.” Another graduate wrote that the Auburn creed required “that Auburn men and women follow the path of justice for all men regardless of race, creed or color.”
But closer to home, Alabama’s white supremacist community loudly demanded strident resistance to even this kind of token desegregation. Draughon suffered verbal abuse and verbal assault throughout the rest of his tenure as Auburn’s president. Dean William Parker suffered even worse abuse. G.W. Lane of Meridian, Mississippi, wrote, and this is Lane’s words, “as a dean or any kind of official, you are a complete washout. You turn against the white students whose families have made your job possible. Shake hands with nigger, and welcome him with open arms. What kind of government job are you after? Take this buck nigger home. Introduce him to your wife and daughter. What part of Massachusetts or Connecticut or New York are you from you, you bastard?”
Franklin’s experience as a student betrayed the strained ambivalence that lay behind Auburn’s placid veil. No one in the administration took a strong public stand against desegregation, but no one stood in favor of going beyond token desegregation. Auburn officials set the tone when they assigned Franklin to an isolated room in an empty wing of Magnolia Hall. He was “mostly ignored” by students, and, he believed, by faculty as well. He roomed alone, he ate alone, he studied alone. When an Asian student requested a room on Franklin’s secluded wing, the dormitory director forbade it.
Although Franklin did not suffer the fate of James Meredith in Mississippi, his fellow students did not accept him as those at the University of Alabama had accepted Vivian Malone and James Hood. Only a few students got to know Franklin, and he did not try to make himself highly visible. Once, when he was away from campus visiting his wife and son in Montgomery, a black man ate at the dormitory cafeteria. Students and administrators thought the guy was Harold Franklin. When Franklin returned to Auburn, they realized their mistake and hurriedly restricted the use of University property by those they considered to be outsiders.
This failure to support Franklin as a member of the campus community had its greatest effect and impact in academics.
[slide: Harold Franklin, at table]
[slide: Malcolm McMillan]
Malcolm McMillan, shown here, believed that Franklin was a serious but not particularly competent scholar, saying in a later interview “He could have been a better student if he had a better background.” McMillan, however, failed to note that Franklin’s lack of a proper background for graduate students at Auburn was probably because of Alabama’s habitual neglect of black educational institutions. Franklin finished his course work and his residency requirement, but he and Ed Williamson (who many of us know), Franklin’s major professor, could not agree on a thesis topic. Franklin eventually accepted a teaching position at Tuskegee, then moved to Talladega College. He received a Masters degree in international relations from Colorado’s Denver University in 1975 after passing his doctoral prelims.
[slide: Franklin walking through campus]
So the story of Auburn’s desegregation is one of short-term success. In 1963-64, President Draughon steered Auburn through the racial conflicts that engulfed the University, the state, and the nation. In an era in which many whites used violence to oppose any threat to the racial status quo, Draughon skillfully led Auburn University to accept with grace what it could not stop. Auburn’s quiet admission of Harold Franklin led the New York Times to editorialize on January 7th of ’64 that “the march of events had passed segregationists by” and “the New Year begins with brighter skies in Alabama.”
Thank you very much. [applause]
Dwayne Cox: Dr. Franklin, it’s your turn.
Speaker, Harold Franklin:
Well, thank you, and thank you for inviting me as you celebrate 150 years of Auburn University. My wife just whispered and said “Marty didn’t leave much for you to tell,” and it’s pretty much true. Marty and I met some years ago, and we know each other pretty well, so he tells it like it is. That’s the first thing I like about Marty, he doesn’t exaggerate or exacerbate, he just says. If I tell Marty that the sky is blue, he says the sky is blue. That’s it. He doesn’t try to make a big deal out of it.
I graduated from Alabama State in ’62, with honors, after serving four years of active duty and three years of inactive duty in the Air Force. I really didn’t want to come to Auburn, a “cow college” we called it in those days. I lived in Montgomery, and my wife had the baby seventeen days after I got to Auburn. So I wanted to stay kind of close, but I still wanted to do graduate work.
My ambition really was to become a lawyer. I always visualized [being] another Thurgood Marshall, for those of you who know Thurgood Marshall, the architect of Brown vs. Topeka Kansas Board of Education. That was my dream. I stayed with a great-uncle of mine, who was a physician, my first three years in college. He wanted me to be a physician, and I told him, “Uncle, no. I don’t like math and science,” and I made no bones about it.
Anyway, we got to the point where Hood and Malone had desegregated Alabama, and we needed somebody to desegregate Auburn. And, since I lived in Montgomery in Judge Johnson’s district, I met all the requirements. Marty explained most of it to you, so I won’t be redundant about it. Anyway, when Auburn turned me down (as Marty said), they didn’t turn me down because I was black. At least, they didn’t tell me that. They turned me down because Alabama State was not accredited. That’s the term they used.
And, of course, my undergraduate degree was in government and psychology, I believe, and, since Auburn said they offered a degree in history and government (or political science, it was the same thing in those days), I said, “Well, this is ideal, and it’s right here at home.”
[technician adjusts Franklin’s microphone upward]
So we toyed with the idea of my coming here to Auburn. And of course Fred Gray was instrumental in doing [that]. But one of the things that Marty didn’t mention, that I can mention, [is] we knew we had won the case against Auburn. And the reason for that: I don’t know how many of you are my age or older, but you remember when Austin R. Meadows was State Superintendent of Education?
Meadows testified on our behalf. He said this, when Auburn said that Alabama State wasn’t accredited because of poor leadership, Meadows said no, Alabama State wasn’t accredited because the state would not appropriate adequate funding for Alabama State and Alabama A&M, as they were doing for Auburn and Alabama. And I will never forget; we left court that day on a recess, and Fred Gray said to me [that] we won the case already because, when the highest person in education, the person who holds the highest job in education in the State of Alabama, says something, it’s pretty much accurate. And so we knew we won the case. So I felt pretty good, and then of course Frank Johnson issued his decision in my favor.
Auburn appealed to the, I think it was then, Fifth Circuit Court and the Fifth Circuit just turned them down flatly. And then of course, they went out to deny me a room on campus. That would have got to be funny, because, in the hearing, the University said that Auburn really didn’t have that many graduate students living on campus. I never will forget that, during the questioning, the person who was in charge of housing on campus said that most of the graduate students lived in private homes that were rented out to students. So Frank Johnson said “Have you delivered that list to Mr. Franklin?” and the guy said, “Oh, they are white” and caught himself real quick [covers mouth]. We laughed and said [that] we won that case against Auburn again. We got two against them. You know, it really got to be funny because they made some idiotic mistakes, this type of thing.
But anyway, I came here on January 4th, 1964, and (like Marty said) the white ministers here really looked out for me. And of course they wanted to bring me on campus, but of course Joe Sarver came down and said “No, let me do it” because Lingo was angry. You have to understand Lingo, the head of the state troopers. His name was really Albert Jennings, but he said he wanted, he chose, the name Al Lingo because it sounded tough. That’s what he said in the papers, so you can see what an idiot he was. If I am going to choose a name, I am going to choose for some other reason than to sound tough unless I’m a boxer or something like that, or wrestling or something like that, but he did. And of course it was true that, according to the ministers, he had planned to plant a gun in my things to get me kicked out of school. That’s why the two FBI agents searched my things at the Auburn Methodist Church. I believe it was there, is that right?
[audience member: “Yes”]
I will never forget Father Woodson, down at, was it the Episcopal Church? Father Woodson’s the name. He was outright going. He said, “I am going to carry Franklin on that campus. I don’t care what happens.” He and Joe Sarver locked up. I kept looking at them and said that, as long as white folks are divided, I am going to make it OK, you know. And that is exactly the way I looked at everything.
When I got on campus, I found out Lingo had taken over everything. The head of security on campus told me one day, he said, “Mr. Franklin, let me explain something, we are so angry with George Wallace and the state troopers, we don’t know what to do.” I said, “I got you again then,” you know. “You [are] all divided now, city police, campus security, Lee county sheriff department, all against Lingo and the state troopers, and Lingo and the state troopers against everybody else over here in law enforcement.” So I said, “While they’re arguing among each other, they’re going to ignore me,” and it turned out to be just about pretty much that way, you know because it did. And I will always remember the head of security, one guy, I always will. I get a little emotional about it, but I always respected him because he went out of his way to help me when others wouldn’t.
Like I said, a lot of them ignored me until one day in one of our classes, I won’t call the teacher’s name because he may be in here. He made a mistake in class. And anyway, every evening, we’d leave class together, and he’d always joke with me, “Come on, give me one of those cigarettes.” I’d give him a cigarette, we’d smoke, and we’d talk. I said “Do you know that you made a mistake in class today?” “Oh no, I didn’t, no I didn’t,” and I said “Oh yes.” I had my finger right on the book, on the page in the book. I opened up to show him. I didn’t think anything of it. [He told the class] “You all be like Franklin. I made a mistake in class the other day. He told me the mistake I made. Therefore, you ought to do the same thing. And you know when I make a mistake, it’s because I am not perfect.” From that day on, I had no trouble in school in the class. It was just a simple mistake, but I had to let him know that I was reading. At least I tried anyway, you know and that’s one other thing.
My stay here was uneventful, and I did have those sixty rooms in Magnolia Hall by myself. I counted them. I am telling you, I counted them. Every so often the people at the Justice Department would call me and check on me and see how I am doing and I would tell them “OK, I am still counting the rooms.” [unintelligible; uses handkerchief] A little something to amuse myself.
The classes weren’t that bad. The thing that struck me as rather quaint, though, and I know a time has passed, and I don’t want to harp on the past, but, in my classes, I had all my teachers use the word “Nigrah.” And I couldn’t figure it out. I said, “Here are all these people [who] claim they have so much education. They can say ‘hero’ but they can’t say ‘Negro’.” And that was the strangest thing that happened to me, as far as I’m concerned.
And then I guess the second strangest thing that happened was a young man who followed me from class one evening. And I got pretty fed up with some of the crap that was going on over here. And he kept following me, so I just turned around and looked at him and said “What do you want, man?” I said, “Cause if you hit me, I am going to hit back. They are going to get a chance to kick me out of school today.” So he said, “I don’t want anything. I just wanted to tell you I don’t like Jim Dinsmore and Bob Boettcher” (the two guys that met me when I registered here at the library).
I said, “Why don’t you like them?” I said, “I think they are pretty nice fellows.” He said, “They write against states’ rights.” I said, “States’ rights?” So I said, “What do you know about states’ rights?” “I don’t know anything about it. I am doing what Mom and Daddy told me to do.” I told him, “Man, you are grown. It’s all right to respect your parents, but you are now a college student. You go into that library and read the pros and cons of states’ rights, and then you make a decision for yourself.” And I will never forget that, those were two things that I really admired and enjoyed here. At least I got the chance to get some of it off my chest.
Of course, when I got to my thesis, that’s when things got hot. But, you know I still disagree with Dr. Williamson even today, but that’s water over the dam. I have been to Auburn any number of times. Thanks to Marty, he invited me over. A couple of other people invited me over, and I don’t mind coming to Auburn. I have no grudges against them. I am not the type of person to carry a grudge, since nobody actually struck me physically. Had they struck me physically, then it would have been a grudge for the rest of my natural life, and I would have struck back.
But, you know, the use of the word “nigger” and all that stuff, African Americans have been used to that stuff for years. And we didn’t let it stop us in the past, and we are not going to let it stop us in the future. And we’re going to keep on struggling. We’re going to do what we know to be right. And then, go on and make men and women of ourselves, to make a positive contribution to society.
For all those years that I taught [at] colleges, various colleges, and I am not boasting, but only one student out of thirty years ever accused me of stealing a grade or taking a grade (you’ve heard of “taking my grade”), only one student out of all those years. And I asked the young lady, “What can I do with it? I can’t sell it. I can’t give it away. I can’t keep it. It won’t do me any good,” so she backed down. She tried to con me out of a grade, that’s all it was. All my students treated me fair, and I tried to treat them like human beings. Because when they hit the door, I said, “You are an adult. I expect you to act like it. You are grown. This is what I expect.” When I passed my syllabus out, I said, “This is what I want you to do. This is what is expected of you.”
I did develop some things over the years, like, they had to become registered voters. You know, that’s automatic if you are in my class. The only way you aren’t a registered voter is if you are a foreign student. You had to register, become a registered voter. That was number one. Number two, you had to help somebody else in the community. And I would have them, like, tutoring kids. We had a black cemetery there in Talladega where all my folks were buried and never been cleaned off a day in its life. All freshmen final examinations were four hours long. Now, I have had kids in my class for four and a half months. If I don’t know what they are doing, I know four and a half hours is not going to matter. I took them out there one Saturday and let them clean off that cemetery.
Teaching them [the] responsibility of being in a community. Because, see, it is so easy to get those degrees, but those degrees are for ourselves and not for helping anybody else, as far as I can tell, for most people it’s not. And I would tell my students, “Look, yeah, you get a degree. You go get your law degree (most of my students were pre-law students). You go to law school, what are you going to do? I want you to help the indigent. I want you to help those people who have been accused by the police department and, no, those people did not commit a crime.”
When I got to the University of Denver, it was funny. A young lady was in the bookstore one day, and we were talking. She said, “Where are you from?” I said “Talladega,” and she said, “Oh, my sister and brother-in-law graduated from Talladega.” So I asked her the name of her brother-in-law, and she told me. I said, “What is he doing now?” Because he was a marginal student, but he was going to law school, that was his ambition. She said, “You won’t believe this, Mr. Franklin, but all he is doing is helping poor people.” “Well, you go tell your brother-in-law that he has to support his family, also.” We were laughing, but I thought, “I hope she went home and told him.”
I really tried to instill in my students to help people, because that’s what life is all about over the years. Because, if you taught in one of these private schools like Tuskegee or Talladega, you were lucky if you made $20,000 a year, and I am telling you what I know. When I retired in ‘93, I made $27,000 a year. So it has to be love, you see, and that’s what I wanted my students to be.
I told [them], “Yes, the experience I went through at Auburn, I learned something from it. The experience you got at Talladega, Tuskegee, Alabama State, North Carolina A&T, learn something from it.” That’s all I wanted because, if they became men and women, then I am happy. They can support their family, they are law-abiding people, this type of thing. This is what I expect of my students.
I was at a funeral not so long ago (some of you know now, since I retired, I work at a funeral home), and I met this guy. I kept looking at him, and I said, “I know this fellow from somewhere.” A former student of mine, he had gone to law school and was practicing law, and he gave me one of his cards. I knew I knew the fellow, but, as you get older, you just can’t remember these people, and above all, he was one of those marginal students, too.
The most brilliant student (my wife and I can tell you, we can name them by hand because they were like our children), and we have one at the University of North Carolina, Charlotte: James Ellis Dixon, III, the best student I ever taught. I will never forget him as long as I live. That kid walked around in the Sixties, you know we used to walk around, African Americans, remember in the Sixties, with the black history books in your pockets, and that was fashionable. He read every one of them. That’s one thing I liked about Dickie (we called him Dickie), and that’s one thing I liked about him, and [he] is the best student I ever taught.
And wherever I go, I tell people: James Ellis Dixon III of Tampa, Florida, the best student I ever taught because he read. He read everything he came in sight with. And that’s why I always will admire him, and I hope one day he becomes president of a school. I’d like to see him come back to Talladega College where he graduated from. I want to know the name [of the school] where he got his law degree, but I’d like to see him come back to Talladega College and show the young people what it’s like, to demonstrate to them what life is all about.
Because all the experience I have had in life, whether in the Air Force or growing up in Talladega in a segregated school system, that’s nothing compared to nowadays. We survived then, and we are going to survive now. The only thing that I wanted is to see those kids make it, and I know sometimes it’s getting worse because we have the gangs now, the drugs which we didn’t have when we were in school. In fact the first time I ever saw any marihuana I was in the service, nineteen years old, and a guy showed me a joint. I said, “What is it?” He said, “What does it look like?” I said, “Grass.” “Fool, why do you think they call marijuana grass?” I didn’t know that growing up in Talladega, you know, I didn’t know anything about that.
There is so much there now to hurt our young people, and those of you who work with young people, I hope you try to instill in them what I tried to instill in those thirty years I taught school. To be men and women; to stand on their own two feet; to be able to make positive contributions to society. I know he won’t be President of the United States, but if he feel like he can run, run. He might be a Senator or a Representative. Whatever it is, do something positive. Help get rid of the drugs and things in our neighborhoods, the guns and things, and stop making excuses.
Because I know, just, what, in the last two or three months (I don’t tell my wife all the things that I do), two different people came to me, young people, been put in jail, and they needed letters to the judge supporting them. And I wrote letters for both of them in the hope that they would somehow give them a break, and maybe they’d turn their lives around. You know, you just hate to see this happen to young people, and like I said coming on (I was born in ‘32, for those of you who don’t know, which makes me seventy-three right now), we didn’t have all that stuff to contend with.
The world where we lived was very small. It was your neighborhood, your little high school, probably not even a science building, I mean a science lab in the [school] building. Maybe have a Bunsen burner, that’s about all. No experiments. And, by the way, when people said that Alabama State wasn’t accredited, I met a young man, ([he] had to be white since I was the only black student here) that told me he graduated from high school, and he didn’t have a science lab in high school, but he was at Auburn.
In one way I will go back to Auburn and say I did get them back though, in the long run. You see, Auburn had a policy for graduate school, that says you must take the GRE before you graduate from Auburn, when I entered. See, had Auburn had the policy [that] you must take and pass the GRE before you enter Auburn, they probably would have gotten me. You see? So, after I entered Auburn, and one night I was studying and one of my classmates called me. He says “Harold, what are you doing?” I said, “I am studying for the GRE.” He said, “You don’t study for the GRE at Auburn.” I said, “Well, I want to make sure.” He said, “You don’t study for it. You can take my word. You can trust me.”
After that, Auburn initiated what I call the Franklin policy: you must take and pass the GRE prior to admittance to Auburn. So I left something here, if nothing else, you see. I call that the Franklin policy, the Franklin law, and you know what it’s designed for: to keep too many of us out of here. Let’s call a spade a spade: you know what I say, we don’t pass too many of those standardized exams.
But if you ever read the history of the Binet test, what you call the Stanford-Binet, you find out it ain’t nothing but a joke in the first place. I don’t know if you ever read the life of Binet, the founder of the Stanford-Binet test. He is doing it to make everybody look dumb but himself, that’s all. He did it for fun, started off doing it for a joke. He would come up with questions and answers that nobody else could come up with. Well, you know, that’s a horse of another color.
I don’t have much faith in standardized testing, and that’s no joke about it. In fact, when I was on the faculty at Tuskegee, we had a, what did we call that, the “Soul Test,” and we’d try to give it to white people. We did. Yeah. It was a Soul Test. I don’t know how many of you remember. It came back, I think, in the Seventies or Eighties, and it was all about black culture, and we were trying to get white people to take the test to show them. Look, you can’t pass our test, how do you expect us to pass your test? And somewhere, in all my paperwork, I still have the test somewhere.
In fact I used to give it to everybody, my kids at Tuskegee, I know I used to do it at Tuskegee all the time, and see how many of them could pass. And they were black kids basically, but it was a lot of fun showing them the difference between tests and all that stuff. Because I think the most important thing is what you have up here [pointing to head] and here [pointing to heart], your head and your heart. To me that’s the bottom line.
But also again, let me say thank you for inviting me here. If you have any questions I’ll answer those. Marty said most of it. Yes, I stayed in those sixty rooms like I said, by myself. I was the only student with a key to the inside and outside door. Yes, I had that too. But I will say one thing before I leave.
Our Dean Foy and Reagan, they were going to escort me from Magnolia Hall to registration, and I will never forget that Lingo met them. He [Olliff] was right: Two or three troopers: First of all, “Who are you?” So Reagan, I’ll never forget, (Dean Foy didn’t say much of anything), Reagan said “Who are you?” And Lingo said “I am Colonel Lingo.” He said then, “This is Dean Foy, Dean of Students, and I am his assistant.” And then Lingo said, “What are you doing?” He said, “I am going to escort Franklin up to registration.” [Lingo said,] “No, you are not. Judge Johnson called and said to treat him like any other student. I don’t see you escorting any white students up there. You are not going to escort him.”
I knew then, they would kill me. I figured they were setting me up to kill me. Because state troopers had killed so many people in the Sixties, it wasn’t even funny. And on a pretext, as long as you were black, you had a chance of being killed, it didn’t matter what state trooper. And I just knew it then. And that’s when the state trooper met me out there and asked me for my student ID card. Another trooper came along, and I explained what was going on. And he said, “Well, just show me some kind of ID,” and I showed him my driver’s license.
I met a number of friends, in fact I laugh about one of them, I can’t remember his first name but his last name was Pulliam. He invited me to his wedding in Montgomery, and I told him, “No, you’ll never get the Klan to lynch me at your wedding.” We had a lot of fun, so I told him, I said, “I tell you what.” He said, “I want to leave my car.” I said, “You can leave [your] car in [my] front yard, if you want to.” He didn’t want put all that graffiti and all that stuff on his car. I said, “You can leave it in the yard, but I am not coming to your wedding,” and I wasn’t kidding either, and I didn’t go either.
You know, because sometimes the biggest devil is at church. I think, as some of you all that go to church know that, sometime, if you get rid of the devil at church, you probably have a good church. But the reason you have so many problems at the church is because there are many devils in there, and sometimes it starts with the man at the top called the minister. No, I wasn’t going to his wedding.
And Boettcher and Dinsmore, the two guys who shook my hand when I came out of the library door. I said, I am going to call the people at the alumni office to find them because they really made it easy for me. And there were some others too. Some couple invited me to their house for dinner, I did go to their house for dinner. I wasn’t scared to go, sorry, I guess because it was a man and a wife, so I figured they weren’t going to bother me. And then Marty carried my wife and I [sic] to dinner the other year when we were over here.
But, you know, what happened in the past is in the past. I felt that I had a good thesis; Dr. Williamson said no. I said “OK, so what?” I moved on out to the University of Denver. So, while I was there, Condoleezza Rice and I were classmates, and we were both in the same department, the graduate school of international studies. I did what I wanted to do and got on out. And, well, I am seventy-three today, so I am in pretty good shape, I think.
I am still alive, at least. I told Marty a few minutes ago, I said, the old fogies would tell us that when we were young. They’d tell you, when you were young and you’d go around telling [folks] that you had a stomach ache, that as long as you are above ground, you are all right. And I have never forgotten that, and I often use it. I don’t care what kind of condition you are in, there may be a cure if you continue to live but, if you go under, the cure might come down and, if you die, it won’t help you.
Thank you very much.