‘More than just 1956’: UA honors Autherine Lucy Foster in memorial service

Cat Clinton, Contributing Writer



The University of Alabama memorialized Autherine Lucy Foster, the first Black student to attend the University, in a service at Foster Auditorium on Thursday.

Lucy died on March 2 at the age of 92, less than a week after the University dedicated Autherine Lucy Hall in her honor. 

She was the first to test the landmark U.S. Supreme Court desegregation case, Brown v. Board of Education, at The University of Alabama. The Supreme Court ruled in 1955 that Lucy could attend the University, and she enrolled on Feb. 3, 1956. 

Racist riots soon broke out, and the University suspended her, citing safety concerns. 

“She loved our campus even when the campus didn’t love her,” said G. Christine Taylor, VP for diversity, equity and inclusion.

More than 200 UA students, faculty and staff, along with Lucy’s family and friends, gathered in Foster Auditorium — the site of Governor George Wallace’s Stand in the Schoolhouse Door — to celebrate her legacy. 

The University’s Afro American Gospel Choir performed, and members of Lucy’s sorority, Zeta Phi Beta, Inc., attended. Other attendees included UA President Stuart Bell; Lucy’s pastor, the Rev. A.B. Sutton; and Trustee Emeritus John England.

At the dedication of Autherine Lucy Hall on Feb. 26, the University awarded her the title of master teacher. 

“On that day she did, of course, what a master teacher would: She held class,” Bell said. “And we were all blessed to be the students of her final lecture.” 

Bell said Lucy “showed us how to break barriers through loving beyond measure.” 

Hilary Green, associate professor and co-program director of the African American Studies program, said the memorial service was a final opportunity for students to show their appreciation for someone who pioneered change. 

Green voiced support for a campus holiday to honor her resilience, courage and memory.

“She was more than just 1956,” Green said. “She was more than what the mob did on those days. It was more than her return to receive her master’s degree. She was a mother. She was an aunt. But she was also an alum who has inspired so many generations.”