Today’s Illustration: One White Preacher!

rev graetz and king  Rev. Graetz & Martin Luther King

On This Day: January 10, 1957 – Four Churches bombed in Montogomery, Alabama

“Four churches and two homes are bombed: Bell Street Baptist, Hutchinson Street Baptist, First Baptist, and Mt. Olive Baptist, plus the homes of Revs. Robert Graetz and Ralph Abernathy.  An unexploded bomb is found on the porch of King’s parsonage.”

Rosa Parks:

“In the early 1950s, Rosa Parks-who was born in Tuskegee, Alabama, and worked as a seamstress most of her life- became active in the American Civil Rights Movement and worked as a secretary for the Montgomery branch of the NAACP. She also attended the Highlander Folk School, an education center for workers’ rights and racial equality. On December 1, 1955, in Montgomery, Parks refused to obey a public bus driver’s orders to give up her seat in the “colored” section of the bus to a white man. She was arrested, tried, and convicted for disorderly conduct. Partially in response to her arrest, Martin Luther King, Jr., then a relatively unknown Baptist minister, led the yearlong Montgomery bus boycott, which forced the public transportation authority to end the practice of racial segregation on public buses. This event helped spark many other protests against segregation. Meanwhile, in 1956, Parks’s case ultimately resulted in the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling that segregated bus service was unconstitutional.”

This year marks the 50th anniversary of Rosa Parks’ brave act of civil disobedience. The Montgomery Advertiser presents a tribute to Ms. Parks and the impact her stand against inequality had on civil rights, illustrated with rich stories and stunning photos from the archives of the Advertiser.” — from “They Walk To Freedom” by Kenneth Hare

Montgomery Advertiser pg 9a 12:1:1955


Rev. Robert S. Graetz:


•  born May 16, 1928 — still alive at age 90

•  born in Clarksburg, West Virginia

•  attended school in Ohio – Capital University

•  married June 10, 1951 — Jean Ellis

•  family: seven children

•  was approximately twenty-eight years old when living in Montgomery


•  a white pastor living in Montgomery, Alabama in 1955

•  the neighbor of Rosa Parks

•  pastoring Trinity Luthern Church — an all black Luthern church in Montgomery, Alabama

“. . . . one white minister, the Rev. Robert Graetz, agreeing to help.  Graetz pastored the all-black Trinity Lutheran Church.  Like black ministers throughout the city, Graetz used his pulpit that Sunday to urge participation in the Monday boycott, as well as to suggest that parishioners with automobiles help provide rides to those who would need them.” — from “They Walked To Freedom – pg. 33

Author: White Preacher’s Memoir: The Montgomery Bus Boycott (Black Belt Press, September 1999 — later republished as “A White Preacher’s Message on Race and Reconciliation.”

“After all that I have been through, I keep asking myself the question, “Why am I still here?”  As I reflect on the first fifty years of the modern civil rights movement, one of the most remarkable realities to me is that I am still alive and able to report it and to tell my story.  Quite frankly, I didn’t expect to be.  I have vivid memories of some of our discussion in the Montogomery Improvement Association Board of Trustees meetings.  During those long, difficult months of the bus boycott and its follow-up actions, Dr. King would remind us, “If you’re not ready to sacrifice your life for this cause, you  have not business sitting on this board.”  We all believed that some of us were going to die.  That was the reality that we lived with day after day.  Thought it was never spoken aloud, we were all aware that Dr. King would be the prime target.  We also knew, for a variety of reasons, that I too was likely to be hight on the list of targets.  I was the only white member of the board . . . . Our lives and those of our children were constantly threatened in anonymous letters and phone calls. . . . When our car was vandalized in January 1956, the front tires were carefully slashed on the inside, where the damage would not be noticed.  The cuts were just deep enough not to flatten the tires until they heated up after a long drive . . . . I was very much aware that I might not come back [home].  Jeannie, on the other hand, always “knew” that God would not allow anything bad to happen.  To this day she remembers her shock when the second bomb exploded at our house.  She says she was mad at God for allowing the Klan to throw bombs at our house again, this time with the children inside.”  — “White Preacher’s Memoir” — pgs. 23-24

•  the home to which Mr. & Mrs. Parks ran after the bombing.

“. . . . she and her husband went quickly to the Graetz family’s home after the bombing. The area had been roped off by the police. They said we could not enter. Rev. Graetz spoke to me and said, ‘Come in Brother Parks and Mrs. Parks,’” she added. “We went and offered to help. We began sweeping the floor and picking up.” — NYT – August 17, 2018

•  experienced tire slashing, harassment, bombings, and arrest

“Dr. King used to talk about the reality that some of us were going to die, and that if any of us were afraid to die we really shouldn’t be there.” — by Robert S. Graetz — “The Rev. Graetz said that in the end, they simply had to trust in God to protect them.” — pg 63

also from the book, “They Walked To Freedom” by “In his own words” beginning on pg. 108

“The mayor and other white leaders just blasted white women who picked up their maids at shopping centers, . . . The Klan types actually followed these people and got their license number, tracked down who they were and published lists of their names and phone number.  These women would then get phone calls in the middle of the might.

The mayor said the rides had to stop.  One courageous housewife said that if the mayor wants to come in here and clean my house,k feed my children, and do my laundry, that’s fine, but otherwise, I need my Annie.  There were a good many who continued to do that. . . . There were two keys to the boycott’s success.  One was the role of love and nonviolence in Montgomery. . . . The other key: This was the first time that a substantial number of black people were able to take their own actions, where they stood together and did not falter, ultimately winning a substantial victory.  What that did for the black people in this country was simply incalculable.” – pg 104

“In addition to that, of course, one of the things that allowed him to be heard so well was that he was a brilliant man, highly intellectual, but also a masterful orator and he could speak in language that would lift people up to a different level.  Poor people, uneducated people, would sit there and would hear him as if he was saying, “You are good enough to understand what I am talking about.”  He could also say it in a way that they did understand.  He really elevated them and helped to create within the masses of black people an aura of value and worth and personhood that they had not experienced before.  I think that was the genius of his contribution.” – pg 115


Key Illustrative Thoughts:

• sacrifice
• sacrificing for a cause which is bigger than us
• civil rights
• a single individual
• living with the realization we will probably die doing this
• courage
• love
• commitment
• “a substantial number” made part of the difference
• “love and non-violence.”
• persecution for a cause
• harassed for doing good
• “Why am I still here?”
• prejudice
• the evil in men’s hearts
• “value and worth”
• “We simply had to trust in God.”
• “God will raise up friends to fight with us” – i.e., Patrick Henry


Other Information & Links:

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