Dr. Sonnie Hereford recounts role in civil rights efforts in Huntsville
HUNTSVILLE, Alabama -- Noted civil rights activist and longtime Huntsville physician Dr. Sonnie W. Hereford III talked about his role in the civil rights movement Sunday morning at the Church of the Nativity, Episcopal. "The governor sent 24 state
troopers armed and helmeted
to keep a 6-year-old kid out of school," said Hereford, showing the black-and-white photograph of him and his son as they walked away from the school. "That makes me feel good," said Hereford, whose son, Sonnie Hereford IV, was the first black child admitted to a previously all-white public school in Alabama. Hereford, for one, believes an event that "turned the tide of the movement" was the arrest of Joan Cashin, the wife of Huntsville civil rights leader Dr. John Cashin. 9, 1963, when he enrolled his 6-year-old son at Fifth Avenue School across from Huntsville Hospital. "We got Huntsville integrated two full years before President Johnson signed the Civil Rights Bill" in July 1964, said Hereford. Though the civil rights movement was gaining momentum elsewhere, here in Huntsville in the late '50s and early '60s, "there was a lot of apathy and inertia," Hereford said. Hereford, a Huntsville native, talked about his own childhood, living in a home at North Memorial Parkway and Max Luther Drive and walking 6 miles to attend Councill School. That same day, three more black children were enrolled at Huntsville schools: East Clinton Elementary, Rison Junior High and Terry Heights Elementary. Joan Cashin was holding her 4-month-old daughter, and Martha Hereford was seven-and-a-half-months pregnant. The first week of 1962, Hank Thomas, a member of the Congress of Racial Equality and one of the original Freedom
Riders, arrived in Huntsville to get the movement launched and organize lunch counter sit-ins. The boycott, he explained, called for buying blue jeans in nearby towns like Athens, Decatur, Scottsboro and Fayetteville instead of buying pricey suits and dresses for Easter at Huntsville shops. These days, he can walk down the street and see black firefighters in fire trucks and black officers riding in police cars and, when he goes to his bank, the teller might be a black woman that he delivered. "We wanted to integrate Huntsville," but in a nonviolent way, he said. He would go on to receive his medical degree from Meharry Medical College in Nashville, one of the two medical schools in the South then that blacks could attend, and establish a medical practice here in the '50s. "We didn't want to tear Huntsville apart. The photograph is on the cover of Hereford's memoir, "Beside the Troubled Waters
: A Black Doctor Remembers Life, Medicine, and Civil Rights in an Alabama Town. There are a number
of theories about what was most effective in the effort. Hereford was not aware of the photograph until it appeared in the mail at his office, enclosed in a brown envelope - with no return address - several days after his son enrolled. "The boycotts were successful beyond our wildest dreams," said Hereford, who estimates merchants lost about $1 million or more. The women were in jail for two days and two nights, Hereford said. The local Community Service Committee was formed, with Hereford serving as the chairman of its education committee.
Huntsville police blotter
Church Street: A 45-year-old woman reported the theft of her purse, wallet, driver's license, debit card and two thumb drives from the parking lot of a business in the 400 block
between 3 and 3:30 p. m. Sunday. Memorial Parkway: A 24-year-old woman reported the theft of an undisclosed amount of cash through the forgery of an undisclosed number
of checks between noon July 23 and 11:20 a. m. July 24. Memorial Parkway: A wallet, driver's license and an undisclosed amount of cash were stolen from a vehicle parked in a parking lot in the 2700 block between June 25 and July 5. Jordan Lane: A vehicle parked in a parking lot in the 2400 block was broken into between 5 p. m. July 25 and 8 a. m. July 26. Oakwood Avenue: A vehicle parked in a parking lot in the 2100 block was broken into between 8 and 8:40 p. m. Monday. Dyshell Drive: A vehicle parked in a parking lot in the 4600 block was broken into between 1:30 and 4 a. m. Monday. Memorial Parkway: A vehicle parked in a parking lot in the 2800 block was broken into between 11:25 a. m. and 1 p. m. Monday. Redstone Road: A vehicle parked in a parking lot in the 2000 block was broken into between 6 p. m. and midnight July 9. Sivley Road: A vehicle parked in a parking lot in the 100 block was broken into between 6 a. m. and 3:15 p. m. Saturday. Memorial Parkway: A 57-year-old man was robbed in a parking lot in the 4100 block between 9:20 and 9:40 p. m. Monday. Judith Lane: A 62-year-old woman was assaulted at a home
in the 4300 block between July 19 and 3:50 p. m. July 26. HUNTSVILLE, Alabama -- Unless otherwise noted, the following incidents were reported to Huntsville police Monday and Tuesday. Willow Hills Drive: A vehicle parked at a home
in the 9000 block was broken into between 6 p. m. Sunday and 8 a. m. Monday. Jack Coleman Drive: Two backpack blowers were stolen from a home in the 300 block between 2:30 and 3:30 a. m. Tuesday. Baywood Drive: A vehicle parked near Alametos Street was broken into between 3 and 3:30 p. m. Monday. Rockledge Place: A 2006 Kawasaki EX-500 was stolen from a parking lot in the 200 block between 4:30 p. m. Monday and 6 a. m. Tuesday. Alametos Street: Approximately 81 tablets of a prescription medication were stolen from a home in the 2900 block between 2:30 and 3:25 p. m. Monday. Old Madison Pike
: A business in the 6700 block was burglarized between 5:30 p. m. Friday and 6 a. m. Monday. Holmes Avenue: A vehicle parked at a home in the 3000 block was broken into about 10:10 p. m. Monday. San Ramone Drive: A vehicle parked at a home in the 1000 block was broken into between 8 p. m. Saturday and 4 p. m. Sunday. West Arbor Drive: A bicycle was stolen from a home in the 800 block between 8:30 p. m. and midnight Monday. Governors Drive: A 40-year-old man was robbed at gunpoint near the intersection of Clinton Avenue about 11:25 p. m. Monday. Penny Street: A vehicle parked at a home in the 3600 block was broken into about 8:30 p. m. Thursday. Albany Circle: A 42-year-old man reported his identity stolen between Dec. Alta Dena Street: A 1991 Honda Civic was stolen from a home in the 5600 block between 12:01 a. m. Sunday and 12:20 p. m. Tuesday. East Arbor Street: A 1993 Honda Accord was stolen from a home in the 2000 block between 5 p. m. Sunday and 7 a. m. Tuesday. Rideout Road: A wallet was stolen from a home in the 1800 block about 10 a. m. Sunday. A wallet, two credit cards, an undisclosed amount of cash, a military ID card and a driver's license were stolen. O'Shaughnessy Avenue: A home in the 1500 block was burglarized between 11 a. m. July 15 and 2 p. m. Sunday. Police were not notified until Saturday, and the report was not made public until Tuesday. The theft was not reported to police until Monday.