By Raanan Geberer
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Dennis Holt was looked upon by many as the voice of Brownstone Brooklyn, but back in the mid-1950s, he was a popular student leader at the University of Alabama.
And while there, he played a part in the integration of the college and the fight against segregationist mobs.
As recounted in the book “The Schoolhouse Door: Segregation’s Last Stand at the University of Alabama” by E. Culpepper Clark, the enrollment of the first black student at the college brought an angry mob to the school, including Ku Klux Klan members. The college soon expelled the student, Authurine Lucy Foster, claiming they could not guarantee her safety.
After more ugly incidents and intense debates among the faculty, Holt, who was already well known to students because he had won the National Debate Championship the previous year, spoke at a student rally. Culpepper describes Holt as having been “brilliant, eloquent and popular.”
“Our university and its trustees,” Holt told the crowd, “may be famous for all time for running away from a fight. They have acquiesced to the mob. Let’s face it: the mob is king on campus today.”
Holt introduced a resolution calling for law and order and an end to mob rule. When he finished speaking, the crowd applauded for 35 seconds.
Holt also told the crowd that he had been able to physically subdue three of the rioters. When asked about it years later in the Eagle offices, Holt simply replied, “They were drunk!”