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This Day in Georgia History

January 09, 1961

Holmes and Hunter Register

Hamilton Holmes and Charlayne Hunter arrived at the University of Georgia campus to complete the registration process. A special edition of the campus newspaper, the Red and Black, called for calm and urged students not to attempt to interfere with the federal court order (see copy of front page). While things were relatively peaceful in Athens, it was quite different in Atlanta. There, federal judge William Bootle had scheduled a hearing on the state’s appeal of his integration order. At the state capitol, Gov. Ernest Vandiver announced that if the state’s appeal for a stay of the federal desegregation order was turned down, he might close the University pursuant to a 1956 state law forbidding the co-education of black and white students. By chance, the 1961 session of the General Assembly had convened on this day, and what to do to keep the University of Georgia segregated occupied everyone’s attention. Suddenly word reached the state capitol that Judge Bootle had granted a stay, prompting tremendous cheering in each chamber. The celebration didn’t last long, for two hours later, federal circuit court judge Elbert Tuttle overrode Bootle’s stay. Georgia Attorney General Eugene Cook caught a plane to Washington D.C. to appeal to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black to reinstate Judge Bootle’s stay.

Back in Athens, the rumor had spread throughout campus that Gov. Vandiver was going to close the University the next day. That night after a basketball game, a crowd of about 1,000 students gathered in the streets to protest court-ordered desegregation scheduled to take place the next day. Two students were arrested, but there was no violence. A little after midnight, University president Omer C. Aderhold announced that he had received no official order to close, so classes would proceed on schedule on Jan. 11.