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Alabama town fears new school superintendent's alleged bigotry

Randolph County High School

July 2, 1997
Web posted at: 4:11 a.m. EDT (0811 GMT)

From Correspondent Russ Jamieson

WEDOWEE, Alabama (CNN) -- A former high-school principal who sparked national attention after speaking out against interracial dating was sworn in Tuesday as superintendent for the school district that wanted him gone.

Hulond Humphries had little to say to reporters. But Humphries' critics had plenty to say about their newly elected superintendent.

"Randolph County has not been healed yet. They put a Band-Aid on it, but you know, it hasn't healed yet," said resident Marlon Benard.

Humphries today

In 1994, then-Principal Humphries threatened to cancel the high school prom, allegedly over fears of interracial dating. He also allegedly called a mixed-race student "a mistake" -- a claim he denies.

Following the remarks, protests erupted, parents filed lawsuits and the high school was burned down by an arsonist.

Humphries, who's white, has said in previous interviews that his prom remarks were made out of concern for students' safety, because black- white dating had led to several serious fights.

As part of a settlement, Humphries was removed as principal, given a consulting role and ordered to stay off high school property.

Town concerned

Wedowee rebuilt the high school, but the town is still divided over what happened and Humphries' return as superintendent has, for some, reopened old wounds.


Downtown Wedowee echoed with protest songs Tuesday morning as Randolph County residents lined up with their opinions on Humphries and the racial progress made in the last three years.

"He just treats white people and black people differently," said Wedowee resident Deliah Knight. "And you know, if he's going to do that, he don't need to be in the schools."

"The out-of-town folks come out and try to stir up trouble that we didn't want around here," said resident Christopher Price. "But you know, it's going to come whether we want it or not."

But Humphries' harshest critics believe progress will only come with his ouster. They're also saying legal and democratic processes have failed.

"We thought this was what the federal courts were all about," said School Board member Charlotte Clark-Frieson. "We thought this was what the Justice Department was all about. Come to find out, we have been fooling ourselves all this time."

Clark-Frieson says defending Humphries and rebuilding the school have cost the school system hundreds of thousands of dollars. State experts have been called in to help Wedowee survive its financial crisis.

Humphries spent 18 months as an administrator for the district before running for school superintendent and narrowly winning the Democratic nomination in a runoff. He was unopposed in the general election.

As superintendent, Humphries will oversee a school system of about 2,200 students, roughly one-third black.

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