January 4, 1964 is remembered more for what almost happened than what actually transpired.
After sitting through two separate court battles, first to gain admission and then housing, the day had finally come for Harold Franklin to register for classes and desegregate Auburn University.
He arrived hoping for the best but expecting the worst.
Though then-president Ralph. B. Draughon had taken a top-down approach to desegregation as early as the 1950s, even going so far as to schedule a school-wide meeting in the football stadium to caution against any embarrassing behavior on January 4, no one knew what to expect.
One of the most prevailing rumors at the time was that Alabama Gov. George Wallace would make an appearance at Auburn similar to his “Stand In The SchoolHouse Door” at the University of Alabama and similarly stain Auburn’s reputation, but he made no such threats.
Instead he sent Col. Al Lingo and a swarm of state troopers to police Auburn’s campus that day, ostensibly to keep potential rioters off of campus, but effectively leaving Franklin unguarded as he walked across campus for the first time.
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