Former Gov. S. Ernest Vandiver, who died Monday at 86, presided from 1959-63 -- a time in the South when racial matters were igniting. Vandiver campaigned on an anti-integration platform and promised voters that no white child would ever sit next to a black child in school.

Vandiver stood at a crossroads when a federal court ordered the integration of Atlanta public schools and then the University of Georgia. He could protest antisegregation laws by letting schools close, or Vandiver could find a way to peacefully integrate.

Vandiver chose the latter, and that made all the difference in Georgia. The immediate result of the governor's action was to keep UGA's doors open to all students, including two black students.

What prompted Vandiver's Saul on the road to Damascus change of heart? Perhaps the governor just wanted to avoid the same kind of racial tension that had erupted in neighboring Alabama. Vandiver thought at the time his decision was "political suicide."

Whatever caused his change of mind, Vandiver's legacy is one of pushing Georgia closer to the day when students of all races can learn together in public schools.

React to this story:

0
0
0
0
0

Trending Video

Recommended for you