50th anniversary of the Freedom Riders

The Freedom Riders not only desegregated bus stations and public facilities in the south during the civil rights era, they tried to go to church. I remember how upset I was when I heard that the minister who had baptized and married me was forced out of his church. Here is that story.

My family’s attendance at Galloway was an established
tradition by the early 1960s. My wife Gloria and I sat with
our sons in the sanctuary, but as savvy parents we allowed
the boys to have a few minutes outside between Sunday
School and the morning service.  On one Sunday in June—June
19, 1963—the boys were late coming to join us. When I went
to check on them, I found the side doors locked; no one
could enter.  As I opened the doors for the boys, I noticed
a flurry of activity outside. There was a small group of
people including several African Americans. When I sat
down, I turned to Gloria and remarked, “Let’s listen
closely; this may be the last sermon we’ll hear Dr.Selah
preach.”

As it turned out, it was the day Dr. Selah left the pulpit,
having stated his position that no one seeking to enter the
church should be turned away.  When he went to his office,
we followed behind, deeply concerned about what had taken
place.  He said to us, “I’ve preached of love to this
congregation for eighteen years, and no one heard me.”  I
said, “No, Dr. Selah.  Many of us heard you, and what you
taught has influenced our lives.”     

Dean Miller, Galloway UMC

2 responses »

  1. Peggy Prenshaw

    Norma–I have just today read the blog!! I haven’t yet reread the memoir–and dread doing so, with all those pithy, sexy, wonderful details excised–too bad. When you come to Jackson for the reading, do let me know.
    I was more than surprised when I read your “Dean Miller story” about Galloway and Dr. Selah. Dean Miller is my husband–we will soon have a first year anniversary—he recalled the incident when we went to the downtown celebration of the Freedom Riders last month–and when Galloway asked for recollections of the church’s presence in the Freedom Rider era, I wrote that little narrative and submitted it. Dean is a native Kansan, which I think Jackson at the time regarded as explanation of his liberal racial views.

    Reply
  2. Peggy! What an amazing coincidence. My second (third?) cousin, Walton Lipscomb, sent me Dean’s essay, and it brought back all those terrible memories of white churches in Jackson. Don’t dread reading the memoir. The best sex scene is in the second half, which the publisher did not buy, I have to admit, after I got over my adoration of every precious word, the book reads better without the naming of parts. People who read it tell me they can’t imagine what I took out.

    Reply

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