Barbara Curry-Story, JSU’s first Black student, dies at 79

Barbara Curry-Story earned her degree in education from Jacksonville State University in 1969. (Nik Layman/Alabama NewsCenter)Barbara Curry-Story earned her degree in education from Jacksonville State University in 1969. (Nik Layman/Alabama NewsCenter)

Angelica Luna, Correspondent

Barbara Curry-Story, the first Black student to enroll at Jacksonville State University, died on Oct. 20 at the age of 79.

Curry-Story was born on Nov. 24, 1941, to a large family in Ohatchee, Ala. After graduating in Hobson City, Ala. from Calhoun County Training School, she moved to New York City in order to stand on her own feet and start making a stand for herself financially. 

She returned home five years later, enrolling at Jacksonville State University in the Fall semester of 1965, as the university’s first Black student. As a single mover, Curry-Story was fighting to give her two-year-old son everything she could and build a life for herself. 

“Mrs. Barbara Curry-Story was a woman of grace and dignity,” said Charlcie Vann, JSU’s director of diversity and inclusion. “Her boldness and determination is an example not only to Black students at JSU, but to all students faced with obstacles or challenges. Mrs. Barbara’s tenacity of never giving up lead her to be a successful student, professional at Alabama Power, mother and grandmother.”

In her obituary, she is also remembered to be “a faithful member” of Friendship Baptist Church, at which her husband, Henry Curry, was a deacon.

With the help of her brother’s 1959 Chevrolet, Curry-Story was able to safely make her way to campus. Without complications, she was able to safely attend her classes. However, being the first Black student on campus would come with attention. 

Throughout her days on campus, she would occasionally hear shouts and criticisms, but it was not long before she started establishing valuable relationships with other students. After a while, she began to not only interact with others but also spending time with them. 

After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in education with a concentration in vocational home economics, Curry-Story worked as a home economist for Alabama Power. She continued to grow in this field, becoming a senior marketing specialist. After almost 33 years (32 years and five months) in this career, she retired.

Curry-Story knew she was paving roads for those who came behind her, both on campus and in her career. 

“I was the first Black home economist in Eastern Division,” Curry-Story said. “Up until they hired me, that job was always held for white females. Two years later, they hired two more Black employees.”

Her position at Alabama Power was rewarded to her daughter, Starla Curry Hilliard. Barbara Curry-Story was able to open a new path for her children, and trained Starla in her new career.

“Her life exemplifies leadership and what it means to be a JSU Gamecock,” said SGA President Jerod Sharp. “She was a trailblazer in her time and her dedication to striving for a better life also ended up blessing the JSU community.”

Over the summer, a petition circulated online calling for Bibb Graves Hall to be renamed due to his membership in the Ku Klux Klan. The petition suggested renaming the administrative building after Curry-Story.

“I am saddened to hear of the passing of Mrs. Curry-Story, though she left behind a great legacy of being the first Black American to have graduated from JSU,” said Matthew Reeves, a JSU alumnus who started the petition.

“Now, more than ever, would be a wonderful opportunity to honor her by renaming Bibb Graves Hall,” he said.

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