"It is certain, in any case, that ignorance, allied with power, is the most ferocious enemy justice can have." ~ James Baldwin
"Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity." ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.
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Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Wyatt Tee Walker

‘‘One of the keenest minds of the nonviolent revolution.’’ ~ Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Civil rights leader, pastor and musicologist Wyatt Tee Walker was born August 16, 1929 in Brockton, Massachusetts and attended Virginia Union University, earning  a bachelor's degree in chemistry and physics and a master's in divinity. It was at this time he met Martin Luther King, Jr. at an inter-seminary meeting while King was at Crozier Theological Seminary.

Upon graduation in 1953, Walker became pastor of Gillfield Baptist Church in Petersburg, Virginia. He became involved in local civil rights issues, serving as president of the Petersburg NAACP chapter and as founder and president of the Virginia branch of the Congress of Racial Equality. He organized the Petersburg Improvement Association, modeled after the Montgomery Improvement Association, a grassroots organization fighting segregation. Walker was jailed in 1958 the first of seventeen times for leading efforts to integrate the Petersburg Public Library, deliberately choosing to try to check out a biography of Robert E. Lee.

Police dogs attack Walter Gadsden in Birmingham

Walker was one of the founders of the Southern Christian Leadership Convention in 1957, and in 1960 King asked him to come to Atlanta to serve as its executive director. He proved to be an excellent administrator, coordinating staff, raising money, and raising the new organization to national prominence alongside the older NAACP and CORE.

He was the primary strategist for "Project C", the implementation of the Birmingham Campaign in 1963 that called for marches, sit-ins and boycotts of local businesses, with an eye for detail that included counting the number of stools at each lunch counter. The violent reaction of Commission of Public Safety Bull Connor, using dogs and fire hoses to subdue the protesters, brought national attention to the SCLC's efforts as did King's "Letter from Birmingham Jail."

Taylor left the SCLC to for the Negro Heritage Library, working with school boards to expand public school curricula and library resources to reflect African American history and culture. In 1967 he was called to serve as senior pastor of Canaan Baptist Church of Christ in Harlem. King conducted his official installation and preached that Sunday's sermon on March 24, 1968, eleven days before he was assassinated.

Taylor returned to school to earn a doctorate in 1975 from Colgate-Rochester Divinity School, specializing in African American sacred music. He published Somebody's Calling My Name: Black Sacred Music and Social Change, the first of his eleven books, in 1979. He has served as an urban affairs consultant to Governor Nelson Rockefeller and on the American Committee on Africa, an anti-apartheid group.

Taylor retired in 2004 and now lives in Virginia. He is a member of Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity.

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