Posts Tagged ‘people’

J. Mills Thornton

Posted: August 8, 2010 in Uncategorized
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Dr. J. Mills Thornton earned his Ph.D. from Yale University in 1974, studying under C. Vann Woodward, the leading scholar of southern history and race relations of his time. A Professor of History at the University of Michigan, Dr. Thornton is a nationally known expert on the subject of the Civil Rights Movement and local activism, and Southern history during the period from 1815 to 1877. Professor Thornton was an academic advisor to “Eyes on the Prize” and is the author of “Dividing Lines: Municipal Politics and the Struggle for Civil Rights in Montgomery, Birmingham, and Selma” and “Politics and Power in a Slave Society: Alabama 1800-1860.”


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.

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.

Professor Ray Arsenault is the John Hope Franklin Professor of Southern History at the University of South Florida, St. Petersburg. From 1980 to 1987, he was the co-director of the Fulbright Commission’s Summer Institute on American Studies at the University of Minnesota; he has served as a consultant for numerous museums and public institutions, including the National Civil Rights Museum, The Birmingham Civil Rights Institute and the Rosa Parks Museum. Professor Arsenault received his B.A. Degree from Princeton University in 1969 and his Ph.D. Degree from Brandeis University in 1981. He is the author of Freedom Riders: 1961 and the Struggle for Racial Justice (Oxford University Press, 2006), for which he received The Owsley Prize, and other books on Civil Rights Movement History, including “The Changing South of Gene Patterson: Journalism and Civil Rights from 1960-1968,” and his latest book, “The Sound of Freedom: Marian Anderson, the Lincoln Memorial, and the Concert That Awakened America” (Bloomsbury Press, 2009). A member of the Florida affiliate of the American Civil Liberties Union, he served two terms as state president. He received the Nelson Poynter Civil Liberties Award in 2003.