The NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF) is profoundly saddened to learn about the passing of Dr. Sonnie Hereford, III, a courageous civil rights pioneer and former LDF client. 

As a valiant supporter of civil rights in the tumultuous Alabama of the 1960s, Dr. Hereford was the lead plaintiff in LDF’s groundbreaking Hereford v. Huntsville litigation, which sought to desegregate Huntsville’s city schools. On Septemeber 9, 1963, Dr. Hereford’s son, Sonnie Hereford IV, made history as the first black child to integrate an all-white public school in Alabama. These historic events took place only a few months after Governor George Wallace’s infamous “stand in the schoolhouse door” to halt the desegregation of the University of Alabama. Dr. Hereford and his family participated in this LDF litigation despite threats to his own life.

LDF is incredibly appreciative for the bravery and pioneering work of Dr. Hereford. His commitment to integrated schools continues to bear fruit as past and recent court orders in the desegregation litigation are still in effect in Huntsville. We extend our deepest condolences to his son, family and loved ones. His legacy will live on in our desegregation work and in the new school named in his honor, Sonnie Hereford Elementary, that will open later this year. LDF is eternally grateful for Dr. Hereford’s contributions.  


Founded in 1940, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF) is the nation’s first civil and human rights law organization and has been completely separate from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) since 1957—although LDF was originally founded by the NAACP and shares its commitment to equal rights. LDF’s Thurgood Marshall Institute is a multi-disciplinary and collaborative hub within LDF that launches targeted campaigns and undertakes innovative research to shape the civil rights narrative. In media attributions, please refer to us as the NAACP Legal Defense Fund or LDF.