Wally Nelson (1909 — 2002)

As remembered by Sheila Michaels

Wally Nelson was born in Arkansas in 1909. His father was a self-taught minister, & he was a younger son in a large family. He went north to join his brothers & worked at odd jobs, while trying to get a higher education. When he was unemployed in the 1930s, he took to the rails, as an hobo, looking for work. He was jailed twice as a Conscientious Objector during WW II. He was a purist & left the labor camp for Conscientious Objectors because he realized he did not want to cooperate with the war effort by working for the government on the home front. This resulted in a long jail sentence. At one point he shared a cell with Joe Guinn, one of the founders of CORE, in Chicago. It was there he met his future wife, Juanita Nelson, when she came as a reporter, to do a story on jail conditions. He & George Houser were partners on the Fellowship of Reconciliation's Freedom Ride in 1947. He was CORE's first Field Secretary but caused controversy by not following their policy to bar suspected Communists from participation, in those McCarthyite times.

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