Vivian Malone Jones, who on a blisteringly hot June day in 1963 became one of two black students to enroll at the University of Alabama after first being barred at the door by the defiant governor, George C. Wallace, died yesterday in Atlanta. She was 63.
The cause was a stroke, her sister Sharon Malone told The Associated Press.
Her entrance to the university came as the civil rights struggle raged across the South. On June 12, the day after Ms. Jones and James Hood were escorted into the university by federalized National Guard troops, the civil rights leader Medgar Evers was shot to death in Jackson, Miss.
On May 30, 1965, Ms. Jones became the first black to graduate from the University of Alabama in its 134 years of existence, earning a degree in business management with a B-plus average.
The performance of Governor Wallace, who stood at the doorway of Foster Auditorium flanked by state troopers, fulfilled a campaign pledge stop integration at “the schoolhouse door.”
But historians have written that his defiance was scripted and came with a promise to federal authorities that he would be brief and would soon comply.
At the time, The Tuscaloosa News wrote contemptuously that the governor “squeezed every suspenseful moment of drama from the occasion.”
The students waited in a car, as Nicholas deB. Katzenbach, deputy attorney general of the United States, avoided a direct confrontation. He said to Mr. Wallace: “From the outset, Governor, all of us have known that the final chapter of this history will be the admission of these students.”
Only after the federalized guard troops arrived, four and a half hours after Mr. Wallace’s initial refusal, were the students admitted. Mr. Wallace read a second statement challenging the constitutionality of the court order, then briskly left.
The students entered Foster Hall, registered, went to their dormitories, ate in the cafeteria and experienced no further incidents that day.
The first African-American at the university, founded in 1831, was Autherine Lucy, who arrived in February 1956 to pursue a master’s degree in library science. But after experiencing three days of threats Ms. Lucy was suspended, ostensibly for her own safety, and later expelled.
More than 35 years later, she earned a master’s degree in elementary education at Alabama.
Mr. Hood left the university after two months, saying he wanted to avoid “a complete mental and physical breakdown.” He transferred to Wayne State University in Detroit and graduated with a bachelor’s degree, having studied political science and police administration.
Mr. Hood. returned to the University of Alabama and earned a doctorate in higher education in 1997.
Vivian Juanita Malone grew up in Mobile, Ala., where she was a member of the National Honor Society in high school.
She earned a bachelor’s degree at Alabama A & M, a predominantly black university, but it lost its accreditation. To get an accredited degree, she applied to the University of Alabama’s School of Commerce and Business Administration and was admitted as a junior.
One night at midnight, someone knocked on her dormitory door and told her there was a bomb threat. No bomb materialized, but that November, there were three bomb blasts at the university, one of them four blocks from her dormitory.
After Mr. Evers was killed, Ms. Jones said she felt even more determined not to give up.
“I decided not to show any fear and went to classes that day,” she said in an interview with The Post Standard of Syracuse in 2004.
In the same interview, she said one of her strongest memories of Alabama was that she often smiled at white students, but got no response.
The university hired a driver for her, a student at Stillman College in Tuscaloosa named Mack Jones. They later married, and he became an obstetrician. He died last year.
Ms. Jones is survived by her son, Michael A. Jones; her daughter, Monica Jones Shareef; three brothers; four sisters; and two grandchildren.
After graduating from Alabama, Ms. Jones worked for the United States Justice Department in its civil rights division. She also worked at the Environmental Protection Agency as director of civil rights and urban affairs and director of environmental justice before retiring in 1996 to sell life insurance.
In 1996, former Governor Wallace presented the Lurleen B. Wallace Award for Courage, named for his late wife, to Ms. Jones. He told her that he made a mistake 33 years earlier and that he admired her. They discussed forgiveness.
In a speech to University of Alabama graduates in 2000, Ms. Jones suggested one lesson that might be taken from her historic experience: “You must always be ready to seize the moment.”