Monday, January 11, 2010

11 January 1961: Charlayne Hunter and Hamilton Holmes Start Classes at UGA

On this day in 1961, Charlayne Hunter and Hamilton Holmes attended their first classes at the University of Georgia. Though taunted and jeered by white students as they walked to their classrooms, there was no violence or disruptions during the day. On this night in 1961, after a basketball loss to Georgia Tech, a riot was staged outside the Myers Hall dormitory where Hunter lived. Rocks, bottles, and bricks were thrown at the windows, and at the 39 Athens policemen left to control the crowd with tear gas and fire hoses. State troopers were called, but did not arrive for hours.

Upon the dispersion of the violent crowd, the University suspended Hunter and Holmes "for their own safety," and they were sent back to their parents' homes in Atlanta. Two days later, the same Fifth Circuit judge who had ruled the University must allow the students to register for classes also ruled that the students must be reinstated and allowed to attend classes unharmed. They were back in school by Monday the 16th, and by the end of the week, no longer required their plain-clothed security escorts.

Both Hunter and Holmes had transferred from other schools, and graduated in June, 1963. Hunter took a job with the New York Times, later reporting for PBS's MacNeill-Leherer Report and CNN. She is currently a foreign correspondent for National Public Radio, based in South Africa. Holmes became the first black student to attend and graduate from Emory Medical School, later serving on the faculty and becoming associate dean of the medical school. He also served as the chief of orthopedics at Atlanta's Veterans Administration hospital and medical director of Grady Hospital. He died following quadruple bypass surgery in 1995, at the age of 54.

In 2001, as part of the commemoration of the 40th anniversary of UGA's desegregation, the Academic building was renamed the Holmes-Hunter Academic building.

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