ATLANTA (AP) – More than 500 mourners gave Vivian Malone Jones one last standing ovation at her funeral Wednesday, honoring the quiet courage of a civil rights icon who was the first black student to graduate from the University of Alabama.

“Her life made a difference in the freedoms that we enjoy in America today,” Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin said at the service, which focused on the day in 1963 when Jones and James Hood faced off with then-Alabama Gov. George Wallace, who made his stand in the “schoolhouse door” in an attempt to prevent their enrollment.

Hood recalled that day in his remarks at the funeral, saying that when he told Jones he was scared, she gave him a note that read, “Whatever adversaries these days, our Father, help us face them with courage.”

Jones, who went on to a long career with the U.S. Justice Department in Washington and for the Environmental Protection Agency in Atlanta, died Oct. 13 after suffering a stroke. She was 63.

A native of Mobile, Ala., Jones was enrolled at historically black Alabama A&M University when she transferred to the University of Alabama in 1963. The move led Wallace to stand at the steps of the university in defiance of an order to admit black students. Jones and Hood, accompanied by then-Deputy U.S. Attorney General Nicholas Katzenbach, enrolled after Wallace finished his statement.

“Opening the University of Alabama to African-Americans did take courage and determination,” Katzenbach said at the funeral. “It also took courage to stick it out for two years to graduation.”

The Rev. Joseph Lowery, a longtime civil rights leader who worked alongside the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., said the then 20-year-old Jones was a “gentle lamb” in front of a “growling lion.”

Glenda Hatchett, a former chief judge on the Fulton County Juvenile Court who has a syndicated television court show, linked Jones’ role as civil rights leader to her Christian beliefs.

“George Wallace didn’t know what he was up against because Vivian was on the other side with God,” Hatchett said.

The funeral was held in the Martin Luther King Jr. Chapel on the Morehouse College campus. About 20 Morehouse students gathered around as the casket was placed on a horse-drawn hearse.

“It shows you that one person’s life can make a difference,” 19-year-old sophomore Derrick Johnson said. “You had to stop in some sort of reverence for her.”

Jones is survived by a son, daughter and grandson. Her husband died last year.

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