James A. Hood, who integrated the University of Alabama in 1963 together with his fellow student Vivian Malone after Gov. George C. Wallace capitulated to the federal government in a signature moment of the civil rights movement known as the “stand in the schoolhouse door,” died on Thursday in Gadsden, Ala. He was 70.
On the morning of June 11, 1963, Mr. Hood and Ms. Malone, backed by a federal court order, sought to become the first blacks to successfully pursue a degree at Alabama. A black woman, Autherine Lucy, had been admitted in 1956 but was suspended three days later, ostensibly for her safety, when the university was hit by riots. She was later expelled.
Mr. Hood and Ms. Malone embarked on their college careers that day, and violence was averted. A third black student was admitted at Alabama’s Huntsville campus a few days later.
Kennedy made a broadcast speech the night of the Tuscaloosa confrontation, calling civil rights a “moral issue.” But the next day, Medgar Evers of the Mississippi branch of the N.A.A.C.P. was shot to death in Jackson, Miss. A week later, Kennedy proposed a broad package of civil rights legislation.
Mr. Hood had a brief, dispiriting stay at Alabama. He lived in a dorm room on a floor where the only other occupants were federal marshals. A dead black cat was mailed to him, and university officials sought his expulsion for a speech attacking them and Wallace. He was also distraught because his father had cancer. He left the university on Aug. 11, 1963 — “to avoid,” he said at the time, “a complete mental and physical breakdown.”
He obtained a bachelor’s degree from Wayne State University in Detroit and a master’s degree from Michigan State, concentrating in criminal justice and sociology. He was a deputy police chief in Detroit and the chairman of the police science program at the Madison Area Technical College in Wisconsin.
Mr. Hood returned to the University of Alabama to obtain a doctorate in interdisciplinary studies in 1997.
Vivian Malone Jones became Alabama’s first black graduate and was later a civil rights official with the United States Justice Department and the Environmental Protection Administration. She died in 2005.
James Alexander Hood was born on Nov. 10, 1942, in Gadsden, where his father, Octavie, drove a tractor at a Goodyear tire plant. He attended the historically black Clark College in Atlanta (now Clark Atlanta University). His anger when he read about a survey finding that the brain development of blacks had not matched that of whites spurred his desire to advance his education and put a lie to such notions.