Where Eagles Dare: Auburn Takes Off For The 2017 Air Race Classic

Where Eagles Dare: Auburn Takes Off For The 2017 Air Race Classic

[vc_row type=”in_container” full_screen_row_position=”middle” scene_position=”center” text_color=”dark” text_align=”left” overlay_strength=”0.3″][vc_column column_padding=”no-extra-padding” column_padding_position=”all” background_color_opacity=”1″ background_hover_color_opacity=”1″ column_shadow=”none” width=”1/1″ tablet_text_alignment=”default” phone_text_alignment=”default” column_border_width=”none” column_border_style=”solid”][image_with_animation image_url=”16955″ alignment=”center” animation=”Fade In” box_shadow=”none” max_width=”100%”][vc_column_text]Kendall Higdon, left, and Ashley Tucker ’16, co-pilots on Team War Eagle Women[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row type=”in_container” full_screen_row_position=”middle” scene_position=”center” text_color=”dark” text_align=”left” overlay_strength=”0.3″][vc_column column_padding=”no-extra-padding” column_padding_position=”all” background_color_opacity=”1″ background_hover_color_opacity=”1″ column_shadow=”none” width=”1/1″ tablet_text_alignment=”default” phone_text_alignment=”default” column_border_width=”none” column_border_style=”solid”][vc_column_text]Auburn Women are taking to the skies once again to compete in the 2017 Air Race Classic, an all-female aeronautical race crisscrossing the country.

What started as the Women’s Air Derby in 1929 and later All Women’s Transcontinental Air Race (AWTAR), the Air Race Classic is a long running tradition of transcontinental speed competition for women pilots. This year, the Air Race Classic is expected over 50 teams to compete.

Representing Auburn is Team War Eagle Women, made up of teammates and co-pilots Ashley Tucker ’16 and Kendall Higdon. The two have the luxury of competing in a brand-new Cessna Skyhawk 127 on loan from Textron Aviation’s Top Hawk collegiate program.

“Only a couple of universities get them every year, so we were chosen this year and now we get to promote Auburn Aviation as well as the Top Hawk program,” said Tucker. “It’s really a great opportunity — what better way to start hopefully a long line of Auburn women participating in this tradition?”

“We’re really excited to be able to fly this brand-new plane,” says Higdon. “There’s only 50 hours on it that we put on it.”[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row type=”in_container” full_screen_row_position=”middle” scene_position=”center” text_color=”dark” text_align=”left” overlay_strength=”0.3″][vc_column column_padding=”no-extra-padding” column_padding_position=”all” background_color_opacity=”1″ background_hover_color_opacity=”1″ column_shadow=”none” width=”1/2″ tablet_text_alignment=”default” phone_text_alignment=”default” column_border_width=”none” column_border_style=”solid”][vc_column_text]The plane is just large enough to fit two seats side-by-side. The two will be able to stretch and adjust their seats during autopilot, but most of the flight will take pure will and determination.

“This is going to be a fun week, don’t get us wrong, it’s just going to be very condensed, high-intensity in terms of what we’re all having to do,” Tucker said.

The pilots depart Friday, June 16 from the Auburn Airport for the race’s official launching point in Frederick, Md.

From there, the two-woman teams will complete a grueling, three-day race across over 2,600 miles, flying from Frederick to Coshocton, Ohio, then Indianapolis, Ind. and Decorah, Iowa, followed by checkpoints in Bemidji, Minn., Spencer, Iowa, Abilene, Kan., Ardmore, Okla., and Plainview, Texas before finishing in Santa Fe, N.M.

[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][vc_column column_padding=”no-extra-padding” column_padding_position=”all” background_color_opacity=”1″ background_hover_color_opacity=”1″ column_shadow=”none” width=”1/2″ tablet_text_alignment=”default” phone_text_alignment=”default” column_border_width=”none” column_border_style=”solid”][image_with_animation image_url=”16957″ alignment=”right” animation=”Fade In” img_link_large=”yes” box_shadow=”none” max_width=”165%”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row type=”in_container” full_screen_row_position=”middle” scene_position=”center” text_color=”dark” text_align=”left” overlay_strength=”0.3″][vc_column column_padding=”no-extra-padding” column_padding_position=”all” background_color_opacity=”1″ background_hover_color_opacity=”1″ column_shadow=”none” width=”2/3″ tablet_text_alignment=”default” phone_text_alignment=”default” column_border_width=”none” column_border_style=”solid”][image_with_animation image_url=”16966″ alignment=”” animation=”Fade In” box_shadow=”none” max_width=”100%”][/vc_column][vc_column column_padding=”no-extra-padding” column_padding_position=”all” background_color_opacity=”1″ background_hover_color_opacity=”1″ column_shadow=”none” width=”1/3″ tablet_text_alignment=”default” phone_text_alignment=”default” column_border_width=”none” column_border_style=”solid”][vc_column_text]Rather than competing for position, competitors are racing against their own best time based on a handicap assigned by ARC judges weeks earlier. Instead of the first team to reach Santa Fe, the winner will be determined by who passes each checkpoint with the best time.

Though some of the checkpoints are ‘flyby only,’ meaning teams need only radio the control tower before continuing on to the next location, pilots are only allowed to fly from sunrise to sunset and must land at a pre-approved airport.

The race will have provisions in certain airports waiting for them, but Tucker and Higdon are making hotel reservations in advance.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row type=”in_container” full_screen_row_position=”middle” scene_position=”center” text_color=”dark” text_align=”left” overlay_strength=”0.3″][vc_column column_padding=”no-extra-padding” column_padding_position=”all” background_color_opacity=”1″ background_hover_color_opacity=”1″ column_shadow=”none” width=”1/1″ tablet_text_alignment=”default” phone_text_alignment=”default” column_border_width=”none” column_border_style=”solid”][vc_column_text]Their goal is to fly the bulk of the trip on the first or second day to pace the race, but weather will dictate the plans for the following day. “Whether we do that bulk in a day or wait a day and continue, it’s not who reaches Santa Fe first,” said Tucker. “It’s who beats their time, so if we wait to do it on a better day we’ll be able to go faster, which will help us win.”

In a field of 55 teams, there are several non-competitors in it for the experience. But not Auburn. “We’re competitive. We want to win. 100 percent,” Tucker and Higdon said together.

[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row type=”in_container” full_screen_row_position=”middle” scene_position=”center” text_color=”dark” text_align=”left” overlay_strength=”0.3″][vc_column column_padding=”no-extra-padding” column_padding_position=”all” background_color_opacity=”1″ background_hover_color_opacity=”1″ column_shadow=”none” width=”2/3″ tablet_text_alignment=”default” phone_text_alignment=”default” column_border_width=”none” column_border_style=”solid”][image_with_animation image_url=”16971″ alignment=”” animation=”Fade In” box_shadow=”none” max_width=”100%”][/vc_column][vc_column column_padding=”no-extra-padding” column_padding_position=”all” background_color_opacity=”1″ background_hover_color_opacity=”1″ column_shadow=”none” width=”1/3″ tablet_text_alignment=”default” phone_text_alignment=”default” column_border_width=”none” column_border_style=”solid”][vc_column_text]Tucker and Higdon both have backgrounds in aviation. Tucker’s father was an air pilot and Higdon’s mother was a Delta flight attendant. Tucker started flying planes in 2013 after changing her major from Media Studies and Higdon her senior year in high school and is continuing her education after graduating in 2016.

Auburn’s program is the oldest continually-running in the country, with a sterling reputation throughout the flight industry, but when a lack of funding in 2013 almost shuttered the Auburn Aviation program, the future for the state’s only collegiate-level aviation school the future looked bleak.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row type=”in_container” full_screen_row_position=”middle” scene_position=”center” text_color=”dark” text_align=”left” overlay_strength=”0.3″][vc_column column_padding=”no-extra-padding” column_padding_position=”all” background_color_opacity=”1″ background_hover_color_opacity=”1″ column_shadow=”none” width=”1/2″ tablet_text_alignment=”default” phone_text_alignment=”default” column_border_width=”none” column_border_style=”solid”][image_with_animation image_url=”16975″ alignment=”” animation=”Fade In” box_shadow=”none” max_width=”100%”][/vc_column][vc_column column_padding=”no-extra-padding” column_padding_position=”all” background_color_opacity=”1″ background_hover_color_opacity=”1″ column_shadow=”none” width=”1/2″ tablet_text_alignment=”default” phone_text_alignment=”default” column_border_width=”none” column_border_style=”solid”][vc_column_text]An outpouring of alumni support in 2014 helped turn things around and has helped set the school’s sights higher than ever.

“To see the support that came from the aviation students and the faculty and alumni just shows how tight-knit the Auburn family truly is,” said Tucker. “It got me excited to be in the aviation program. I can’t speak highly enough of it because they’re setting you up for the rest of your life and I’m so happy the program got saved, it’s come so far.”

Tucker recalls when she first started there were only four or five girls in the program; now there’s almost 20.

“To me, that shows growth in the program overall and that’s another great reason why we’re doing this air race — it’s great for getting other girls and people involved, but I think it’s for all the Auburn men and women in aviation, this is promoting our aviation and flight school,” Tucker said.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row type=”in_container” full_screen_row_position=”middle” scene_position=”center” text_color=”dark” text_align=”left” overlay_strength=”0.3″][vc_column column_padding=”no-extra-padding” column_padding_position=”all” background_color_opacity=”1″ background_hover_color_opacity=”1″ column_shadow=”none” width=”1/4″ tablet_text_alignment=”default” phone_text_alignment=”default” column_border_width=”none” column_border_style=”solid”][vc_column_text]“It’s a huge honor for both of us,” said Higdon. “We both feel incredibly honored just to be chosen to do the race, but also represent Auburn women during the 125th celebration and just to be an example to younger girls that you can be anything that you want to be if you set your mind to it; nothing can stop you.”

To follow the War Eagle Women, check out the “follow the race” map provided on the website.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][vc_column column_padding=”no-extra-padding” column_padding_position=”all” background_color_opacity=”1″ background_hover_color_opacity=”1″ column_shadow=”none” width=”3/4″ tablet_text_alignment=”default” phone_text_alignment=”default” column_border_width=”none” column_border_style=”solid”][image_with_animation image_url=”16976″ alignment=”” animation=”Fade In” box_shadow=”none” max_width=”100%”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row type=”full_width_background” full_screen_row_position=”middle” scene_position=”center” text_color=”dark” text_align=”left” overlay_strength=”0.3″][vc_column column_padding=”no-extra-padding” column_padding_position=”all” background_color_opacity=”1″ background_hover_color_opacity=”1″ column_shadow=”none” width=”1/1″ tablet_text_alignment=”default” phone_text_alignment=”default” column_border_width=”none” column_border_style=”solid”][divider line_type=”Full Width Line” line_thickness=”3″ divider_color=”default” animate=”yes”][vc_column_text]

UPDATE: War Eagle Women Take Off

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The War Eagle Women take off for Frederick, MD on June 16 around 9am.

(360 video, click and drag to look around the cockpit)

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Carving Their Own Legacy

Carving Their Own Legacy

[vc_row type=”in_container” full_screen_row_position=”middle” scene_position=”center” text_color=”dark” text_align=”left” overlay_strength=”0.3″][vc_column column_padding=”no-extra-padding” column_padding_position=”all” background_color_opacity=”1″ background_hover_color_opacity=”1″ column_shadow=”none” width=”1/1″ tablet_text_alignment=”default” phone_text_alignment=”default” column_border_width=”none” column_border_style=”solid”][vc_text_separator title=”More than a decade later, Ryan and Andrew Bynum finally understand what those ‘numbers’ mean “][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row type=”in_container” full_screen_row_position=”middle” scene_position=”center” text_color=”dark” text_align=”left” overlay_strength=”0.3″][vc_column column_padding=”no-extra-padding” column_padding_position=”all” background_color_opacity=”1″ background_hover_color_opacity=”1″ column_shadow=”none” width=”1/2″ tablet_text_alignment=”default” phone_text_alignment=”default” column_border_width=”none” column_border_style=”solid”][vc_column_text]My name is Chris Cooper Bynum. I graduated from Auburn in 1987. My oldest son graduates this Sunday! He recently reminded me of a story I wanted to share with you.

We lived in Texas for a while when our boys were younger. (We are now back in Alabama) so it was a rare and special occasion to visit campus as they were growing up. I brought them to The Plains as often as I could.

Years ago when the opportunity to buy bricks at the football players’ entrance to Jordan Hare Stadium became available, my mother bought a brick for everyone in our family. The next time I was able to bring my sons, Ryan and Andrew (both now current students at Auburn), to see the bricks, they were 9 and 6&1/2 years old. That was the summer of 2003.

[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][vc_column column_padding=”no-extra-padding” column_padding_position=”all” background_color_opacity=”1″ background_hover_color_opacity=”1″ column_shadow=”none” width=”1/2″ tablet_text_alignment=”default” phone_text_alignment=”default” column_border_width=”none” column_border_style=”solid”][image_with_animation image_url=”15883″ alignment=”center” animation=”Fade In” box_shadow=”none” max_width=”100%”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row type=”in_container” full_screen_row_position=”middle” scene_position=”center” text_color=”dark” text_align=”left” overlay_strength=”0.3″][vc_column column_padding=”no-extra-padding” column_padding_position=”all” background_color_opacity=”1″ background_hover_color_opacity=”1″ column_shadow=”none” width=”1/2″ tablet_text_alignment=”default” phone_text_alignment=”default” column_border_width=”none” column_border_style=”solid”][image_with_animation image_url=”15896″ alignment=”” animation=”Fade In” box_shadow=”none” max_width=”100%”][/vc_column][vc_column column_padding=”no-extra-padding” column_padding_position=”all” background_color_opacity=”1″ background_hover_color_opacity=”1″ column_shadow=”none” width=”1/2″ tablet_text_alignment=”default” phone_text_alignment=”default” column_border_width=”none” column_border_style=”solid”][vc_column_text]Upon seeing the bricks, my oldest son, Ryan, asked why every other family member had “numbers” on their brick but he and Andrew did not. I laughed and explained that those were our graduation years… Edwina Kilpatrick Cooper 1962, Leon Curtis Cooper 1967, Chris Cooper Bynum 1987 and Mark Camp Cooper 1995. Ryan & Andrew were so disappointed about the “numbers”!

So, I told them that if they graduated from Auburn (their dad is an Alabama alum), I would get down on my hands & knees with a hammer & chisel and put their graduation year on their bricks myself! Haha!

Well… Hallelujah and War Eagle! Ryan will graduate this Sunday with a 4.0GPA in Biomedical Science and start med school at UAB this summer! He reminded me last week about my “hammer & chisel” declaration. But don’t worry, I will not be climbing the fence to deface the bricks![/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row type=”in_container” full_screen_row_position=”middle” scene_position=”center” text_color=”dark” text_align=”left” overlay_strength=”0.3″][vc_column column_padding=”no-extra-padding” column_padding_position=”all” background_color_opacity=”1″ background_hover_color_opacity=”1″ column_shadow=”none” width=”1/1″ tablet_text_alignment=”default” phone_text_alignment=”default” column_border_width=”none” column_border_style=”solid”][/vc_column][/vc_row]

The Mightiest of All Auburn Oaks

The Mightiest of All Auburn Oaks

[vc_row type=”in_container” full_screen_row_position=”middle” scene_position=”center” text_color=”dark” text_align=”left” overlay_strength=”0.3″][vc_column column_padding=”no-extra-padding” column_padding_position=”all” background_color_opacity=”1″ background_hover_color_opacity=”1″ column_shadow=”none” width=”1/2″ tablet_text_alignment=”default” phone_text_alignment=”default” column_border_width=”none” column_border_style=”solid”][vc_column_text]Most people would not expect a story about a tree to be so captivating–but then again one would not expect such a small tree to withstand so many catastrophes.
David and Teresa Giles are trying to spread the story of BUD The Mightiest of All Auburn Oaks to the entire Auburn family and anyone else that’s interested.
The story is about Bud, an Auburn Oak tree that grows in their backyard by the Choupique Bayou and how it has survived threats that would’ve ended the life of a younger, frailer tree.
However, this tree has proved be equally as strong as the Auburn spirit.

“The little tree reminds of Auburn football,” said Teresa. “We might have some devastating years, but we always come back.”
Making comebacks is a part of Bud’s lifestyle. From hurricanes, to decapitations, to even being run over by the van of an Alabama fan, the 15-feet tree has survived it all and more.
“The book mostly wrote itself,” said David. “Everything that happened was true so I just had to put it together.”
This couple has represented the orange and blue for many years. They met at the Blocked Punt Lounge (now 1716) in Auburn in 1975. Teresa bought David an Auburn Oak seedling on Christmas that year, made possible through the Auburn Forestry program.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][vc_column column_padding=”no-extra-padding” column_padding_position=”all” background_color_opacity=”1″ background_hover_color_opacity=”1″ column_shadow=”none” width=”1/2″ tablet_text_alignment=”default” phone_text_alignment=”default” column_border_width=”none” column_border_style=”solid”][image_with_animation image_url=”15470″ alignment=”right” animation=”Fade In” box_shadow=”none” max_width=”100%”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row type=”in_container” full_screen_row_position=”middle” scene_position=”center” text_color=”dark” text_align=”left” overlay_strength=”0.3″][vc_column column_padding=”no-extra-padding” column_padding_position=”all” background_color_opacity=”1″ background_hover_color_opacity=”1″ column_shadow=”none” width=”1/1″ tablet_text_alignment=”default” phone_text_alignment=”default” column_border_width=”none” column_border_style=”solid”][vc_column_text]The Giles family poses for a photoAuburn has been a family school for Teresa; her father and uncle “Bud” both attended the university. She transferred there after completing two years at Washington State University.

For David, although all of his brothers went to UGA, he also had some family ties at Auburn.
He is the distantly removed cousin of Roy. B Sewell, who first commissioned the Auburn fight song.
The book is available through the Auburn University bookstore, Mascot Books, Amazon and other major online retailers.
After having a successful book signing at A-Day, they are trying get the word out of this book before the football season. Because more fans need to know of “the power of bud.”
“It’s become a good luck charm,” said Teresa. “I’d tell my Tennessee family members all the time at football games every good play was coming from ‘the power of Bud’.”[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row type=”in_container” full_screen_row_position=”middle” scene_position=”center” text_color=”dark” text_align=”left” overlay_strength=”0.3″][vc_column column_padding=”no-extra-padding” column_padding_position=”all” background_color_opacity=”1″ background_hover_color_opacity=”1″ column_shadow=”none” width=”1/1″ tablet_text_alignment=”default” phone_text_alignment=”default” column_border_width=”none” column_border_style=”solid”][vc_column_text]Choupique BayouAuburn has been a family school for Teresa; her father and uncle “Bud” both attended the university. She transferred there after completing two years at Washington State University.
For David, although all of his brothers went to UGA, he also had some family ties at Auburn. He is the distantly removed cousin of Roy. B Sewell, who first commissioned the Auburn fight song.
After having a successful book signing at A-Day, they are trying get the word out of this book before the football season. Because more fans need to know of “the power of bud.”
“It’s become a good luck charm,” said Teresa. “I’d tell my Tennessee family members all the time at football games every good play was coming from ‘the power of Bud’.”[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row type=”in_container” full_screen_row_position=”middle” scene_position=”center” text_color=”dark” text_align=”left” overlay_strength=”0.3″][vc_column column_padding=”no-extra-padding” column_padding_position=”all” background_color_opacity=”1″ background_hover_color_opacity=”1″ column_shadow=”none” width=”1/1″ tablet_text_alignment=”default” phone_text_alignment=”default” column_border_width=”none” column_border_style=”solid”][vc_column_text]Bud the oak tree rolled with toilet paperThe die-hard Auburn couple will be signing books at the Auburn University bookstore for the opening game against Georgia Southern on September 2, 2017.
“What’s great is this is just increasing our Auburn family,” said Giles. “The first time we were at a book store we were having to chase people down and let them know about this story. But now we have some people show up [before].”
As much as the Auburn couple doesn’t mind making the trip to the Plains, they are considering moving back to the area, probably around Lake Martin.
For now, they live in Carlyss, Louisiana surrounded by LSU fans. Giles said they are thinking about moving back after their daughter Maggie, graduates from LSU. If this is the case, then they will donate the tree to the Auburn.
The book is available at the Auburn University bookstore, Mascot Books, Amazon and other major online retailers.
To top it off, 100% of the profits from this book go to the Auburn Oaks Dean’s Endowed Fund for Excellence in the School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Octavia Spencer: First Auburn Grad to Host SNL

Octavia Spencer: First Auburn Grad to Host SNL

Auburn alumna Octavia Spencer ‘94 became the first Auburn graduate to host Saturday Night Live last week. Graduating in 1994 with a bachelor’s degree in liberal arts, Spencer was recently nominated for an Academy Award and Golden Globe for best performance by an actress in a supporting role in “Hidden Figures.” She previously won an Academy Award and Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actress in “The Help” in 2012. During her monologue on SNL, she pokes fun at the fact that she has played a nurse 16 times in her career as an actress. But when she is given the opportunity to step outside that role, she proves to the industry she can deliver.

Spencer was born in Montgomery, Alabama and has six siblings. She graduated from Jefferson Davis High School. On March 21, 2012 she was honored by the Alabama Legislature in declaring this day as Octavia Spencer Day in Alabama.

Defying the Klan: Janie Forsyth McKinney ’70 and the Civil Rights Movement on her Doorstep

Defying the Klan: Janie Forsyth McKinney ’70 and the Civil Rights Movement on her Doorstep

[vc_row type=”in_container” full_screen_row_position=”middle” scene_position=”center” text_color=”dark” text_align=”left” overlay_strength=”0.3″][vc_column column_padding=”no-extra-padding” column_padding_position=”all” background_color_opacity=”1″ background_hover_color_opacity=”1″ width=”1/1″ tablet_text_alignment=”default” phone_text_alignment=”default”][image_with_animation image_url=”14428″ alignment=”center” animation=”Fade In” box_shadow=”none” max_width=”100%”][vc_text_separator title=””][/vc_column][vc_column column_padding=”no-extra-padding” column_padding_position=”all” background_color_opacity=”1″ background_hover_color_opacity=”1″ width=”1/1″ tablet_text_alignment=”default” phone_text_alignment=”default”][vc_column_text]

 

[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][vc_column column_padding=”no-extra-padding” column_padding_position=”all” background_color_opacity=”1″ background_hover_color_opacity=”1″ width=”1/1″ tablet_text_alignment=”default” phone_text_alignment=”default”][vc_column_text]They endured beatings, bombings, harassment and imprisonment—but they changed the Civil Rights Movement and demonstrated the power of individual actions to transform the nation. In 1961, Civil Rights activists organized by the Congress of Racial Equality rode interstate buses deep into the heart of segregated America to challenge local laws and customs that denied ordinary citizens basic freedoms because of the color of their skin. The 1960 Supreme Court Decision Boynton v. Virginia granted them the legal right to buy tickets for buses and sit where they’d like, but all were aware they would face violence and vitriol in the fight to end white supremacy.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row type=”in_container” full_screen_row_position=”middle” scene_position=”center” text_color=”dark” text_align=”left” overlay_strength=”0.3″][vc_column column_padding=”no-extra-padding” column_padding_position=”all” background_color_opacity=”1″ background_hover_color_opacity=”1″ width=”1/1″ tablet_text_alignment=”default” phone_text_alignment=”default”][vc_column_text]One Sunday afternoon May 21, 1961, 13 ‘Freedom Riders’ boarded a Greyhound Bus in Washington D.C. for their inaugural mission to protest segregated busing practices in Southern states. On the way to Birmingham they were stopped just outside Anniston by a mob of angry white men.

Enraged by the Freedom Riders’ mission, they proceeded to attack the bus with pipes and boards, breaking windows and slashing tires. The driver managed to steer them free, but the bus was chased by a convoy of cars; driving on rims, he bailed in front of Forsyth & Son Grocery to flee on foot.

Surrounding the bus, the mob held the doors closed and threw an incendiary device through a broken window, filling the bus full of smoke. An explosion inside forced them to back off, giving the passengers inside a chance to escape, but they were met with slurs and fists as soon as they fled.

Watching it all from her front doorstep was 12-year-old Janie Forsyth McKinney ’70.

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“It was a Sunday afternoon, Mother’s Day, and everybody was home from church,” said McKinney, now 68. “I was just watching, horrified, just wondering what in the heck was going on. I was just gonna watch, I didn’t intend to go out into it!”

But McKinney, in what she describes now as an out-of-body experience, reacted. Grabbing a bucket from inside her house, she took water and cups to badly burned Freedom Riders caught in the middle of the fray, still choking on smoke. Her trance-like state was a blessing in disguise–the bucket was too heavy to carry completely full and she needed to make a lot of trips to the faucet.

Though she considered her actions small and insignificant at the time, in the decades since McKinney’s story has become legend, a ray of hope in the middle of one of the darkest moments in American history.

“I knew it would get me in trouble. You couldn’t drink out of the same water fountain, much less get on the ground with people and touch them and give them water. I knew it was dangerous–I was scared to death–but I knew I couldn’t let it get in the way.”

[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][vc_column column_padding=”no-extra-padding” column_padding_position=”all” background_color_opacity=”1″ background_hover_color_opacity=”1″ width=”1/2″ tablet_text_alignment=”default” phone_text_alignment=”default”][image_with_animation image_url=”14405″ alignment=”” animation=”Fade In” box_shadow=”none” max_width=”100%”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row type=”in_container” full_screen_row_position=”middle” scene_position=”center” text_color=”dark” text_align=”left” overlay_strength=”0.3″][vc_column column_padding=”no-extra-padding” column_padding_position=”all” background_color_opacity=”1″ background_hover_color_opacity=”1″ width=”1/2″ tablet_text_alignment=”default” phone_text_alignment=”default”][image_with_animation image_url=”14404″ alignment=”” animation=”Fade In” box_shadow=”none” max_width=”100%”][vc_column_text]McKinney, a 1970 Auburn graduate in secondary education, vividly recalls a fellow teacher at Phenix City Central High School bragging that he didn’t need to grade his African-American students’ papers. “He said, ‘Miss, I wouldn’t waste my time grading those papers, you ought to know by now what they’re capable of doing. I know what my students are capable of, so I’m not going to waste my time grading those papers.”[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][vc_column column_padding=”no-extra-padding” column_padding_position=”all” background_color_opacity=”1″ background_hover_color_opacity=”1″ width=”1/2″ tablet_text_alignment=”default” phone_text_alignment=”default”][vc_column_text]

In Anniston, where the Ku Klux Klan was a constant presence, McKinney’s actions did not go unnoticed. Klan members of the community met in secret to discuss how or if she should be punished. Sticking up for McKinney, a neighbor supposedly said “I don’t see where she did anything so wrong; hell, you’d give a dog water,” which she believes ultimately spared her.

“But they had to do something, they couldn’t just let it pass,” McKinney said. “So the Klansmen would come by the store and ask Daddy if he was keeping an eye on me. ‘Oh, yes sir, right under my thumb, never let her out of my sight’.”

Life was never the same for Janie McKinney in Anniston after that. Though people seldom discussed what happened that day, hostility was still a constant factor, particularly in high school where the children of community Klansmen often confronted her in the hallway.

“People didn’t like me very much. I was smart, I made better grades than everyone else and that pissed people off. They called me ‘n****r-lover,’ they would get right in my face and hiss; you know how kids are.”

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Later, in her homeroom class, McKinney noticed that students were crying over toxic grades in English class that would derail their dreams of attending college. “I said, ‘Class, if you got a lower grade from Mr. J____ than you think you deserve, please raise your hand.’ A whole bunch of hands went up. I said, ‘You have a legal right to make Mr. J____ tell you how he arrived at your grade. He has to show you, it’s his legal obligation. And I want all of you to go down there together so there will be plenty of witnesses if he tries anything,’ and they did. It was glorious,” she says now, laughing.

[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]Currently a communications specialist in external affairs at UCLA, McKinney has been in and out of the spotlight the more her story spreads. In 1981, Charles Kurault of CBS News Sunday Morning reunited McKinney with Hank Thomas, the youngest Freedom Rider aboard the bus that day, on live TV. “It was surreal because it was so dim in my memory that I had almost forgotten about it and certainly we didn’t talk it to death because nobody talked about it.”

These days, McKinney gives class talks with junior high students about the Freedom Riders and her experience, but scoffs at people who think the era was not that bad, or not that dangerous. “They were that bad. And it was dangerous. I tell students that if they see something dangerous like that, if it’s something that’s scaring you, you don’t have to get involved. But if you get a chance to do something that you know is right, and you feel like God is putting you out there to make a difference, do it, because you’re going to have to live with your decision for the rest of your life.”[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][vc_column column_padding=”no-extra-padding” column_padding_position=”all” background_color_opacity=”1″ background_hover_color_opacity=”1″ width=”1/2″ tablet_text_alignment=”default” phone_text_alignment=”default”][image_with_animation image_url=”14407″ alignment=”right” animation=”Fade In” box_shadow=”none” max_width=”100%”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row type=”in_container” full_screen_row_position=”middle” scene_position=”center” text_color=”dark” text_align=”left” overlay_strength=”0.3″][vc_column column_padding=”no-extra-padding” column_padding_position=”all” background_color_opacity=”1″ background_hover_color_opacity=”1″ width=”1/2″ tablet_text_alignment=”default” phone_text_alignment=”default”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row type=”in_container” full_screen_row_position=”middle” scene_position=”center” text_color=”dark” text_align=”left” overlay_strength=”0.3″][vc_column column_padding=”no-extra-padding” column_padding_position=”all” background_color_opacity=”1″ background_hover_color_opacity=”1″ width=”1/1″ tablet_text_alignment=”default” phone_text_alignment=”default”][vc_column_text]On Wednesday, Feb. 22 (4-6 p.m.) at the Dixon Conference Center of the Auburn Hotel, Bill Harbour and Charles Person, two surviving Freedom Riders, will be sharing their memories and the lessons they learned over a lifetime of fighting injustice [/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]