Pilgrims gather in Hayneville to honor fallen heroes

Published 3:25 pm Wednesday, August 19, 2015

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An estimated crowd of 1,000 attended this years pilgrimage in honor of Jonathan Myrick Daniels and the martyrs of Alabama.

An estimated crowd of 1,000 attended this years pilgrimage in honor of Jonathan Myrick Daniels and the martyrs of Alabama.

Saturday marked a historic day in Hayneville and the civil rights movement in Alabama.

The 50th anniversary of the civil rights martyrdom of Jonathan Myrick Daniels and the 19th annual pilgrimage in his honor and that of the other Alabama martyrs of the civil rights movement was highlighted by the presence of the first black presiding bishop-elect of the Episcopal Church of the United States, as well as the unveiling of a historical marker in honor of Daniels.

Bishop-elect, the Rt. Rev. Michael Curry, the first black bishop to lead a Southern diocese of the Episcopal Church, dedicated the marker to Daniels at the location of Cash Store where Daniels was killed shielding 16-year-old Ruby Sales from a shotgun blast.

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He said, “May this ground always teach us of the price of the goodness and justice given by all the saints and the martyrs of Alabama.

And may the blessing of God Almighty Father, Son and Holy Spirit touch this plaque and watch over those who read the words inscribed on it.”

Daniels was an episcopal seminarian who answered the call of Martin Luther King Jr. to come to Selma to help secure the right of all citizens to vote and who was arrested in Fort Deposit for joining a picket line and transferred to the Hayneville jail. Sales was a 16-year-old girl.

Also among those in attendance Saturday was the brother of Ruby Sales, Yusus Abdus-salaam, the Rev. Francis X. Walter, a retired priest who visited Daniels in jail and Richard Morrisroe, a former Catholic priest who was with Daniels in 1965 when he was killed and who was himself shot in the back as he fled.

Abdus-salamm said, “I think it is an outstanding event acknowledging and recognizing a great human being. He did not hesitate to sacrifice himself for freedom and human dignity. It’s such a wonderful opportunity to participate in this commemoration.”

The Rev. Fannie Davis, local sponsor of the event and member of the Episcopal Diocese of Alabama Commission on Race Relations added, “I think it is wonderful to commemorate Jonathan and also the other people who sacrificed their lives. It’s really a commemoration of love. This is the love that Jesus had, the love that God has for us. And so we commemorate love on this occasion.”

The Rt. Rev. Bishop Curry said, “Commemorations are also occasions for consecration, which means as we give thanks and remember the past we rededicate ourselves now to helping to create a new future. And in the spirit of Jonathan Daniels and following the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth we are committed to help make a world where every man, woman or child no matter who they are is seen as a child of God and where we learn to live together as God’s human family.”

He said, “That’s what Jonathan Daniels gave his life for. That’s what the martyrs of Alabama gave their lives for. And now we must commit our lives anew to that movement.”

Josephine Bolling McCall of the Elmore Bolling Foundation, also a member of the Episcopal Diocese of Alabama Commission on Race Relations said the marker in honor of Daniels cost about $2,500, but was erected by Wilbert Vault of Montgomery at no cost by men who said “they were honored.”

Also, for the third year, the annual pilgrimage in Hayneville benefited Lowndes County school students.

Also on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of Daniels death, Lowndes County District Court Judge Adrian D. Johnson said, “It’s a humbling experience to be able to sit in this courthouse knowing all the cases of national significance… the Jonathan Daniels’ murder case was held in this courthouse, Viola Liuzzo’s muder case was held in this courtroom… took place. And I have the ability to dispense justice where judicial miscarriage was taking place in the past.”

He said, “And so, I think it is important for us to continue to remember all of those issues…”

In appreciation for Lowndes County Superintendent of Education Dr. Daniel Boyd’s hosting a breakfast for students who attend the pilgrimage from across the state, the Episcopal Church has donated $700 to the school district the last two years, which, Boyd said, have been used for scholarships.

Boyd announced at the August meeting of the Lowndes County Board of Education that this year the church is donating $3,155.

“So, we actually going to make several scholarships out of that,” he said.

According to the board of education, recent recipients of the of the Jonathan Myrick Daniels Making a Difference Scholarships were Imani Lee, a Calhoun student who received the 2014 scholarship to attend UAB and Kwaishawn Pershay Albritton, a Central student who received the 2013 scholarship to attend

Alabama A & M University.

The Alabama Martyrs in addition to Daniels, who were also honored on Saturday, included: Elmore Bolling, Dec. 4, 1947 martyred in Lowndesboro; Willie Edwards Jr., Jan. 23, 1957, martyred in Montgomery; William Lewis Moore, April 23, 1963, martyred in Attalla; Addie Mae Collins, Denise McNair, Carole Robertson and Cynthia Wesley, Sept. 15, 1963, martyred in Birmingham; Virgil Lamar Ware, Sept. 15, 1963, martyred in Birmingham; Johnny Robinson, Sept. 15, 1963, martyred in Birmingham, Jimmie Lee Jackson, Feb. 26, 1965, martyred in Marion, Viola Greg Liuzzo, March 25, 1965, martyred near Lowndesboro; the Rev. James Reeb, Sept. 11, 1965, martyred in Selma; Willie Brewster, Sept. 18, 1965, martyred in Anniston; Samuel Leamon Younge Jr., Jan. 3, 1966, martyred in Tuskegee; and all others known only to God.