One hundred seventy-six years after it was chartered, Georgia’s flagship university admitted its first black students on this day in 1961.
Hamilton Holmes and Charlayne Hunter applied to the University of Georgia in the summer of 1959 but were told that all dorms were full. They re-applied every semester thereafter and got the same response. The two sued in federal court and U.S. District Judge William Bootle ordered UGA to admit them.
Governor Ernest Vandiver had campaigned on a segregationist platform of “no not one” and threatened to close the university. A mob outside Hunter’s residence at Myers Hall shouted obscenities, started fires, and broke windows before being dispersed by state police.
The university suspended the two black students but Judge Bootle reinstated them. The school stayed open and there was no more violence. Both went on to distinguished careers, and in 2001 the Board of Regents re-named UGA’s administrative hall the Holmes-Hunter Academic Building in honor of the two brave students who made history on January 9, 1961, Today in Georgia History.
Today in Georgia History is a joint collaboration of the Georgia Historical Society & Georgia Public Broadcasting.