Hundreds turn out for Daniels Pilgrimage

Published 10:59 am Thursday, August 16, 2012

Left: McKinstry signs copies of her book for, from left, Joelle, Marissa and Christiana Hannam of Montgomery.

By Fred Guarino
The Lowndes Signal

“Jonathan’s story was particularly painful to me and painfully familiar,” said Carolyn Maull McKinstry, who at age 14, was a witness to the 1963 bombing of Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham.

Pilgrims from near and far gathered in Hayneville Saturday for the Jonathan Myrick Daniels and the Civil Rights Martyrs of Alabama Pilgrimage.

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Daniels was an Episcopal seminarian who answered the 1965 televised appeal by Martin Luther King Jr. to come to Selma to secure the right to vote for all citizens.

After being arrested in Fort Deposit for joining a picket line, Daniels was transferred to the old jail in Hayneville.

After being released, he and his companions walked to the Cash store where he was killed by a 12-gauge-shotgun blast while shielding 16-year-old Ruby Sales from a man with a gun who was cursing her.

McKinstry made commented on Daniels’s sacrifice while presenting the homily during an Episcopal service held at the Lowndes County Courthouse as part of the pilgrimage.

She also later signed copies of her book “While the World Watched: A Birmingham Bombing Survivor Comes of Age during the Civil Rights Movement” by McKinstry and Denise George.

Saturday’s pilgrimage included a procession to the old jail, the Cash store, the courthouse square, the Jonathan Daniels Memorial and on to the service in the courthouse.

“To me, it’s like a fulfillment of Jonathan’s dream, a fulfillment of the entire dream of the civil rights movement. We’re moving toward what they intended for it to be,” said Fannie L. Davis, local coordinator for the event.

“It has double meaning to me. I’m an alumnus of Virginia Military Institute, and Jonathan Daniels also was. And so, to see the place where he gave his last measure is deeply moving to all of us at the seminary,” John Jenkins said. He attends the Sewanee school of theology in Tennessee.

“Jonathan Daniels came to our church, and as a matter of fact helped integrate our church back in the mid 60’s,” Don King of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Selma said.

St. Paul’s was the host church for Saturday’s event.

“We’re really glad to see more local people showing up. There has been some contention about that whether or not it was a good thing. It’s good to see it’s becoming more accepted,” King said.

“I’m always mindful of the struggles of those who came before us,” Lowndes County District Court Judge Adrian D. Johnson said.

He welcomed pilgrims to the courthouse.

“Many of you have the opportunity to take part in the pilgrimage and go down to the Cash Store, go down to the old jail. Sometimes we take it for granted when we live here… we ride by these things, but we always need to be mindful of the sacrifices that came before us,” Johnson said.

“This was a special occasion remembering the life of Jonathan Daniels. I saw so many similarities in things that happened in Lowndes County and also things that happened in Birmingham during my years growing in 1963,” McKinstry said.

“And I appreciate the spirit of reconciliation that I’ve felt here and have seen here. And you know if I could just put a final word on it, I’d say that Hayneville has gotten it right and they’re headed in the right direction. And I would love to see other cities do what they’re doing here,” McKinstry said.

McKinstry was in the 16th Street Baptist Church on Sept. 15, 1963 when it was bombed.

She said that at age 14 she served as the church secretary, and it was her job to count money and take attendance. She said she had just left her four girlfriends in the bathroom when the blast occurred.

She said it was youth day and the lesson for the day was “A Love that forgives.”

McKinstry said it was about a minute and a half from where she left the girls to go up stairs.

“We did not know that we would never hear that message… that we would never have that meeting and see some of our friends again.”

Those friends were Addie Mae Collins, Denise McNair, Carole Robertson and Cynthia Wesley.

Other Alabama martyrs remembered were Willie Edwards Jr., William Lewis Moore, Virgil Lamar Ware, Jimmie Lee Jackson, Viola Greg Liuzzo, the Rev. James Reeb, Willie Brewster and Samuel Leamon Younge Jr. and all others known only to God.