ASU Alumnus Desegregated Auburn University 60 Years Ago
ASU alumnus, Harold Franklin, in 1963 (contributed).
60 year anniversaryASU History Makers Desegregate Auburn University on Jan 4, 1964ASU alumnus Harold Franklin (ASU '62) becomes Auburn's first Black student with Attorney Fred Gray's (ASU '51) legal representation and Constitutional acuity.By Kenneth Mullinax/ASUAlabama State University certainly is #Where History is Made, and there is no better example of ASU's history-making prowess than noting that January 4 marked the 60th anniversary of ASU alumnus Harold Franklin (ASU '62) becoming the first Black student to attend Auburn University.
Franklin passed away on September 9, 2021 at the age of 88. His victory in his case against Auburn University is attributed to the legal genius of renowned Civil Rights advocate, Fred Gray (ASU '51). Gray is now 93-years-old and still practicing law. He explained, from his home in Tuskegee, Ala., that while he is proud to have been Franklin's attorney and to have been successful in directing all of the legal action that desegregated Auburn University, he lamented that the dream of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. still has not been fully realized.
"Representing Mr. Franklin, who was a 1962 graduate of Alabama State College (now ASU) and who had a degree in government, is among one of my legal cases that gives me satisfaction," Gray said. "After all, we got him admitted to Auburn and more importantly, opened the doorway for tens of thousands of Black students who now follow the trail Mr. Franklin created."WAY BACK THENThe entire court case revolved around the fact that when ASU alumnus Franklin applied to Auburn University in 1963, the university denied him admittance.Gray, a fellow ASU alumnus, successfully argued Franklin’s case. Gray had already gained worldwide acclaim as the lawyer who won most of the impactful desegregation lawsuits in the United States, and as the attorney for Rosa Parks after her arrest in 1955 and for Dr. Martin King, Jr., beginning with the Montgomery Bus Boycott.
"In the Auburn case, I filed in August of 1963 a class-action lawsuit on behalf of Mr. Franklin, noting that he met all of the school's admission regulations and that Auburn's rejection of his admittance application violated his constitutional rights," recounted Gray, by phone. "We won the case on Nov. 5, 1963, when Federal Judge Frank Johnson ruled in our favor and agreed with us that Auburn's denial of Franklin's admission amounted to discrimination against the plaintiff and other Black citizens."CIVIL RIGHTS LEADERS AND ASU ALUMNIA notable expert on the Civil Rights Movement is ASU's Dr. Howard Robinson, whose historical opinions and papers have long been reported via such varied news venues as The BBC, New York Times, Washington Post, History Channel, Los Angeles Times, WSFA TV-12 and others. Robinson is among a cadre of ASU's "go-to-scholars" when the subject of civil rights is discussed or studied.
"I think it is interesting to note that Auburn's desegregation case's decision occurred due to the heroism and mental acuity of two Alabama State University graduates, Mr. Franklin and Mr. Gray, without whom it would not have occurred so soon," Robinson stated. "Auburn's desegregation took place during a time when many other state schools were also going through the process, including the University of Alabama and the University of North Alabama—all with Fred Gray being the advocate for desegregation."Robinson shared that 60 years ago could have been a harrowing time for any protesters - peaceful or not - and that it took great bravery for both Franklin and Gray to stand-up for justice."On January 4, 1964, history was made as ASU's Mr. Franklin was admitted as a graduate student at Auburn University under a police presence due to violent protests of right-wing organizations. While attending Auburn, he lived in campus housing, yet eventually transferred to another graduate school."
Robinson noted that Franklin at one time both taught and held staff positions at Alabama State University.GRAY REMARKS ’MORE IS NEEDED’Gray, who shared that he has been practicing law for more than 69 years, explained why it is important to remember past victories like the Franklin case while keeping one’s attention on current issues."Mr. Franklin was certainly a man who possessed heroism and bravery for standing up and alone confronting the evils of segregation," Gray said. "To honor Mr. Franklin and so many others from the 'day,' we need to increase our outreach, our voting and much more if we are to reach Dr. King's vision of the beloved community."News media contact: Kenneth Mullinax, 334-229-4104.###ASU###