Archive for the ‘People’ Category

Betsy Bean

Posted: August 8, 2010 in Betsy Bean, People

Betsy Bean is the Executive Director of The Spirit of Anniston project, chaired by Ann Welch. The project will include the establishment of Anniston sites that will be a part of the new Alabama Civil Rights Trail, including the location of the 1961 Freedom Riders bus burning on Alabama Rte. 202, the former Greyhound bus station on Gurnee Avenue (where the Freedom Riders were initially attacked upon entering Anniston), and the Public Library of Anniston & Calhoun Counties. Anniston’s part in this history includes both the violence of Southern resistance to racial equality, and its place in the immediate efforts at reconciliation and the preservation of the archives, and stories of events which must be remembered for their redemptive value.


Mark Potok

Posted: August 8, 2010 in Mark Potok, People
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Mark Potok is a career investigative reporter who serves as Director of the Intelligence Project, a unique project which supports the legal work of the SPLC and its fight against hate groups, individuals and entities that foster or sponsor white supremacy and racism. In 1981, the Southern Poverty Law Center began investigating hate activity in response to a resurgence of groups like the Ku Klux Klan. Today the Intelligence Project monitors hate groups and tracks extremist activity throughout the U.S. It provides comprehensive updates to law enforcement, the media and the public through its quarterly magazine “Intelligence Report.” Staff members, who include investigators, research analysts and writers, regularly conduct training sessions for police, schools, and civil rights and community groups, and they often serve as experts at hearings and conferences.

Judge Thompson was born 1947 in Tuskegee, Alabama. After graduating from Yale University in 1969 and Yale Law School in 1972, Myron Thompson became Assistant Attorney General for the State of Alabama, and then entered the private practice of law. In 1980, at age 33, he was appointed by President Jimmy Carter to succeed the legendary Judge Frank Johnson, Jr. on the United States District Court for the Middle District of Alabama, becoming the youngest federal judge to be appointed to the federal bench. Having presided over some of the most important cases in the court’s recent history, including Paradise v. Prescott — which had its origins in Judge Frank Johnson’s decision in Paradise v. Allen — Judge Thompson is a student of the role of the court, and the responsibility of the legislative and executive branches of the federal government. In recent testimony on the subject of prison reform, he explained: “…If you seek an approach that will prevent constitutional violations, you must look not to the judiciary but rather to the executive and legislative branches of government, for the latter are the ones that have the authority to set up, or create groups, agencies and institutions to provide such broad, preventative oversight; only they can step in beforehand and actually prevent constitutional violations.” Courts, he emphasized, can only enforce the Constitution against violations of its guarantees and entitlements. To make true social progress, the executive and legislative branches have the power, not just to set minimum standards, but to create social institutions which exceed Constitutional minimums. In 2004, Judge Thompson was selected to give the Dean’s lecture at Yale Law School.

Janice Kelsey

Posted: August 8, 2010 in Janice Kelsey
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Janice Kelsey was introduced to her first “mass meeting” in the Birmingham Movement in 1963, and remembers personally being in the audience and hearing the messages of Martin Luther King, Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth and Rev. Ralph Abernathy. She also remembers Rev. James Bevel’s speaking directly to the high school students, including herself about the grossly inequitable distribution of outdated books and educational equipment for students at Ullman high school, and other black schools, as compared with the books and equipment available to students at white high schools in the City. She remembers Rev. Bevel explaining the need for the children’s campaign, and her decision to participate in the workshops on nonviolence and join the children’s movement. She has special memories of May 2, 1963, “D-Day” – the first mass march in the “children’s campaign.” She remembers being stopped by police as she walked with other students from the Sixteenth Street Church toward City Hall, and that when the students stood in line following the police order to end their march, they were arrested on the spot and jailed. The next day, from her jail cell, she could see the now well-documented use of fire hoses and attack dogs (under the direction of “Bull” Connor) on the second group in the children’s campaign. Janice Kelsey went on to a 33-year career in education, as an acclaimed middle school and high school science teacher in the Birmingham School System, and as Principal of Dupy Elementary School and Powderly Elementary School.

Born in Selma, Catherine Burks was a 21 year-old senior at Tennessee State University when she joined the freedom rides, and her refusal to be intimidated by “Bull” Connor’s personal threats as he drove her and six companions to the Tennessee border is captured with unique accuracy in Chapter 5 of Professor Arsenault’s book. She was on the bus with Bill Harbour, John Lewis, Jim Zwerg, Susan Wilber, Susan Herman, Bernard Lafayette, William Barbee, and others in Montgomery, and during the brutal mob attack – perhaps the worst since the Anniston firebombing – she rescued some of the female riders from the mob by driving them to First Baptist Church in a taxicab which she drove herself notwithstanding the protest of the black driver. She continued her commitment to the movement by traveling with Bill Harbour, John Lewis, Jim Zwerg, and others to Chicago to raise funds for CORE, and sees the Movement, and Dr. King’s personal efforts as including empowerment by grass roots organization – directed at social and economic progress, in the footsteps of the organizational techniques of union movements

Doug Jones is an attorney with the firm of Haskell I Slaughter in Birmingham, Alabama. During his tenure as a U. S. Attorney, he served as the Chair of the Law Enforcement Advisory Committee and was a member of the Health Care Fraud, White Collar Crime and Ethics sub-committees of the Attorney General’s Advisory Committee. In 2001 and 2002, Doug Jones served as special prosecutor in the cases of State of Alabama vs. Thomas Edwin Blanton, Jr., and State of Alabama vs. Bobby Frank Cherry, in which the defendants were convicted of the murder of four young African-American girls as a result of the bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham on September 15, 1963. Doug Jones speaks nationally about the importance of Civil Rights Movement history for lawyers and students of trial advocacy who aspire to sustain and advance social justice through the civil and criminal justice systems.

Dr. Eagles received his undergraduate degree from Presbyterian College, and his M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. As a member of the history faculty at the University of Mississippi, he is a specialist in 20th Century U.S. history since 1983, and holds the title William F. Winter Professor of History. Several of his books deal with the Civil Rights Movement, including the winner of the 1993 Lillian Smith Award in non-fiction, Outside Agitator: Jon Daniels and the Civil Rights Movement in Alabama. His latest book, The Price of Defiance: James Meredith and the Integration of Ole Miss, will be the subject of our symposium

John Seigenthaler founded the First Amendment Center in 1991 with the mission of creating national discussion, dialogue and debate about First Amendment rights and values. A former president of the American Society of Newspaper Editors, Mr. Seigenthaler served for 43 years as an award-winning journalist for The Tennessean, Nashville’s morning newspaper. At his retirement he was editor, publisher and CEO. He retains the title chairman emeritus. In 1982, he became founding editorial director of USA TODAY and served in that position for a decade, retiring from both the Nashville and national newspapers in 1991. John Seigenthaler left journalism briefly in the early 1960’s to serve in the United States Justice Department as administrative assistant to Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy. He served as chief negotiator on behalf of Attorney General Kennedy with Governor John Patterson of Alabama during the Freedom Rides. Later, while attempting to aid Freedom Riders who were being attacked by white mobs at the Montgomery Greyhound bus station, he was himself attacked by the mob and hospitalized with serious head injuries. Mr. Seigenthaler served on the 18-member National Commission on Federal Election Reform organized in 2001 by former Presidents Carter and Ford. He is a member of the Constitution Project on Liberty and Security, created after the September 11 tragedies in New York and Washington. In 2002, the trustees of Vanderbilt University created the John Seigenthaler Center, which houses the offices of the Freedom Forum, the First Amendment Center and the Diversity Institute.

Kwame Lillard

Posted: August 8, 2010 in All Posts, Kwame Lillard, People
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Kwame Lillard personifies the irrepressible spirit that defined the Nashville Movement, and is a life long advocate and activist for civil rights and the advancement of the Movement’s legacy. A devoted disciple of Jim Lawson and Kelly Miller Smith, he was significantly involved in the management of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee’s Nashville Movement offices, the Nashville sit-ins, and in the coordinating of the freedom rides and training of freedom riders. Kwame Lillard has challenged both Tennessee State University and the City of Nashville to remember their roots in the Movement, the recognition of the students of SNCC, and the City’s responsibility to advance the gains made possible by the Movement. His knowledge of the history of Tennessee State University, and the Nashville Movement remains an emotional recollection, and at the same time, his advocacy has taken on a currency that shows his equally genuine passion for the legacy of the Nashville Movement and his vision for the City of Nashville.

Rip Patton was a 21-year-old music major at Tennessee State University when he joined SNCC and the Nashville Movement in 1960, participating in the Lawson Workshops, the Nashville sit-ins and other protests of segregation. He joined the Freedom Rides in 1961 and was in the first group to make it to Jackson, Mississippi, where he was arrested for entering a “white only” Greyhound Bus Station waiting room. His group also included John Lewis, Hank Thomas, and Jim Farmer. The group was ultimately sent to Parchman Penitentiary. Mr. Patton was an active member of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, working closely with Diane Nash and John Lewis. He knew Dr. King, Fred Shuttlesworth and C.T. Vivian and recalls the full range of stories that defined the Civil Rights Movement. He will accompany us throughout the travel course to interact with students individually and collectively.