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Friday, March 11, 2016

On This Day, 1965


Jon S. Randal's photo.

Jon S. Randal (from FB)
March 9, 2014 ·

He was a white minister. Some said he didn't have to go, he had a good life in Boston, he had a loving wife and four loving children. But, he was horrifed at the brutality he saw happening in Selma, Alabama, on Sunday, March 7, 1965, as what is now called "Bloody Sunday." So, when Dr, Martin Luther King, Jr. issued a nationwide call to the clergy, urging representatives of all denominations and faiths to journey to Alabama and stand with African Americans there for the cause of voting rights, social justice, and equality, James Reeb answered the call. Believing that to do nothing in the face of injustice is as wrong as to condone it, Reeb knew he had to go.

Those of you who know your history know what happened and know what occurred on "Bloody Sunday."  On March 9, at an integrated restaurant in Alabama, Reeb and two other ministers were confronted by several white men brandishing clubs and shouting racial slurs. One man slammed his club into Reeb’s head, knocking him to the ground. Several hours elapsed before Reeb was admitted to a Birmingham hospital where doctors performed brain surgery. He never recovered, and he died on March 11, 1965.

His murder spawned national outrage. President Lyndon B. Johnson called Reeb’s widow and father to express his condolences, and on March 15, he invoked Reeb’s memory when he delivered a draft of the Voting Rights Act to Congress. That same day Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. eulogized Reeb at a ceremony at Brown’s Chapel in Selma:

"James Reeb, symbolizes the forces of good will in our nation. He demonstrated the conscience of the nation. He was an attorney for the defense of the innocent in the court of world opinion. He was a witness to the truth that men of different races and classes might live, eat, and work together as brothers."

The last phone call Reeb made was to his wife at the restaurant before he was beaten. His wife would later say that Reeb believed in the aims of the civil rights movement, almost nothing could have stopped her husband from going to Selma, though he knew the risks associated with doing so.

James Reeb, January 1, 1927 – March 11, 1965


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