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Special Event

Hunter-Gault to Return to UGA

Aired January 8, 2001 - 1:25 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: Tomorrow marks the 40th anniversary of a milestone in the civil rights battle. On January 9, 1961, two African-American students enrolled at the University of Georgia. One of them: Charlayne Hunter, now Charlayne Hunter-Gault, who is CNN's Johannesburg bureau chief. She's back in Georgia to attend the ceremony marking that as an anniversary. And we have her here to recall that day.

Do you have any problems recalling an event like that? Is -- was that a frightful thing for you?

CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT, FORMER UNIVERSITY OF GEORGIA STUDENT: No, it was a triumphant thing, because we had fought really hard to gain admission to the University, and when the judge finally ordered us in, it was a really triumphant moment. And, you know, halfway through, they granted us stay of the order, and we had to go and cool our heels.

But we always had confidence that we were right, and it was going to work. And so, in spite of the fact that some not very pleasant things happened, we prevailed.

WATERS: Now, the order was stayed because the then-governor threatened to shut down the school.

HUNTER-GAULT: He had said, no, not one, meaning, no, not one black student will ever darken the doors of that university. But he came to see the error of his ways.

WATERS: And tomorrow, you go back to UGA -- they're going to name a building after you, I understand.

HUNTER-GAULT: Well, it's me and Hamilton Holmes (ph), who was my classmate who went in with me. He's no longer with us, unfortunately. He passed away a few years ago. But, yes, and it's the academic building; and that will be so important to Hamilton, because he was a real fine scholar. He graduated under all that pressure phi beta kappa. So, to have that academic building named after the two of us, I'm sure he's somewhere smiling.

WATERS: And on that stage tomorrow will be Ernest Vandiver, who was the governor, and yet -- a couple of butterflies about that?

HUNTER-GAULT: Well, not really, because, as I said, we triumphed then, and it was their problem to deal with after we were admitted. But I had read in the newspapers now that he has some -- had some second thoughts, if not deep regrets, about it. And I understand that his daughter had a lot to do with organizing this.

And, you know, they said then, that you can't legislate morality, but I think that when you follow the law, whether you can legislate morality or not, if the law is of the land is upheld, the morality will ultimately follow, and I think that's what happened in his case.

WATERS: So, you're going to go down there tomorrow and accept whatever your accepting down there. And, at the same time, realizing that the University of Georgia still isn't cutting it, according to the administrators. I mean, 25 percent black population in Georgia, 6 percent attendance at UGA. That doesn't sound like much progress.

HUNTER-GAULT: Well, we obviously have to build on the foundation that was laid 40 years ago. We have to proceed with more deliberate speed. And I hope, tomorrow, to give a little bit of a challenge and a little bit of encouragement to people, not to do what's politically expedient, but to do what's right.

WATERS: Thanks for stopping by. We know you're tired -- flew in from...

HUNTER-GAULT: Johannesburg.

WATERS: Johannesburg to sit down and talk with us.

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