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Memories associated with the march in Selma 50 years ago still hit Rev. Bill Weir emotionally. Back in 1965, he caught a plane to Selma after hearing one of his colleagues was murdered, he said.
“I sat at Martin Luther King, Jr.’s feet in Brown Chapel,” Bill said.
Local residents gave up the best beds in their homes for out-of-town visitors who showed up for the cause of civil rights, he recalled.
“We demanded Congress pass the voting rights bill,” he said.
Hundreds of people were arrested during a protest in Jackson, Miss. An additional jail was set up at the fairgrounds, where those being held were exposed to the hot sun, “simply for demonstrating for their civil rights,” Bill said.
A minister of the First Unitarian Society of Minneapolis, Bill learned later that a man he helped release from jail 50 years ago was the father of a woman now serving on the national board. Bill said the man had been fired by his church because he joined the protest and was put in jail.
Now 80 years old, Bill, who lives in Buffalo, revisited Selma recently. You may have seen news coverage of President Obama joining the remembrance events in Selma.
Bill recalled that even after voting rights were passed in Congress, some officials made it difficult to register. Bill sees today’s proposed voter ID laws as another way to make it difficult for some people to vote, and he calls for efforts to stop such proposed laws.
While revisiting Selma, “veterans” of Selma in March 1965 came up to him, “sometimes with tears in their eyes,” and expressed deep appreciation for help with passing on the meaning of Selma.
People died for the right to vote.
Fifty years later, efforts continue to preserve that right.
Thanks for the tip
Thanks, Tracy Hagstrom Durant, for a tip about Arts Magnet student Noah Gilbertson and his acappella group, Solstice. See his story on the feature page this week.