By: Anthoney Lewis
Montgomery, AL (Gumptown Magazine). Yesterday marked the 60th Anniversary of the Montgomery Bus Boycott. On December 1, 1955 Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat up to a white man while riding the bus home from work. The National Bar Association and the Tuskegee History Center presented “The Role Lawyers Played in the Montgomery Bus Boycott and Civil Rights Movement” at the historic Dexter Memorial Baptist Church. The sanctuary was filled with elected officials, distinguished guests, supporters, and students.
The event was held to recognize the contributions that lawyers made in the fight for civil rights. “Lawyers played a critical role” said Dr. Richard Bailey, historian and author. Dr. Bailey presided over the event along with Evett L. Simmons, Past President of the National Bar Association.
In her greetings, Tennessee State University President Dr. Glenda Glover talked about the unspoken contributions of lawyers in the struggle for equality. “Don’t forget to thank [them] for not giving up on America and on Justice” she said. “If it had not been for attorneys where would we be?” Dr. Glover is also the International First Vice President of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority.
Elected officials spoke about the progress Montgomery has made over the last 60 years. “Lots of things have changed since 1955” said Elton Dean, Chairman of the Montgomery County Commission. “We are a new Montgomery.”
Montgomery Mayor Todd Strange expressed similar views as Commissioner Dean, but added that there is still more progress to made in the city. “Yes we have made giant strides” he stated as he gave his greetings. “We still have bridges to build with everyone’s help.”
U.S. Representative Terri A Sewell, (D- Alabama) shared a different perspective. “Old battles have become new again” said Sewell. “There is so much work to do.” Rep. Sewell also expressed her concern about Voting Rights. “If we have no vote, we have no voice” she stated while discussing the Voter Rights Advancement Act she introduced to Congress.
Attorney Fred D. Gray gave the occasion for the event. He told the story of how the boycott was planned and how he was selected to do the legal work. Gray explained how lawyers played a major role in the organization and the implementation of the boycott. He said that lawyers worked behind the scenes and in courts.
Gray had also mentioned how programs like [this] event are important because there are some who do not know what it took to destroy segregation. “We need to know what happened in the past, where we are today, and where we need to go. The struggle for equal justice still continues.” He said. Gray had represented Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King Jr., and the Tuskegee students in the syphilis study.
American Bar Association President Paulette Brown spoke to the audience about the contributions that women made in civil rights. Brown talked about the efforts of civil rights lawyers Constance Baker Motley, Juanita Jackson Mitchell, and Frankie Muse Freeman. Brown is the first black president of the American Bar Association.
Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gave the keynote address. She was welcomed with a standing ovation as she entered the church. Clinton shared with the audience about how Martin Luther King, Jr. talked about love and justice on the night of the boycott meeting. “Another side of love is justice. Justice is love correcting that which would work against love” Clinton said.
Other presenters were National Bar Association President Benjamin L. Crump, Alabama State Bar President Lee Copeland, Reverend Bernice King, and Yavonna Morris of Hyundai Motor America.
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