Jimmie Travis
(????  — 2009)

 

As remembered by Cynthia Palmer
July 28, 2009

It is with extreme sadness that I announce the passing of Jimmie Travis. Jimmie was the chairman of the Veterans of the Mississippi Civil Rights Movement. He passed today at 3:30 pm.

Rev. Annie Travis, his wife, has asked me to give you the following arrangements.

The family hour will take place on Friday, July 31 from 10:00 am - 1:00 pm. The funeral services will begin at 1:00 pm. Location, Anderson UMC Church, 6205 Hanging Moss Road, Jackson, MS 39206.

Cook Funeral Home will handle the arrangements. The address is 2110 JR Lynch Street, Jackson, MS 39209.

Please keep the family in your prayers. Please feel free to call me.

Cynthia Palmer
Coordinator
Veterans of the Mississippi Civil Rights Movement

 

As remembered by Heather Tobis Booth
July 30, 2009

I remember Jimmy so vividly — a real organizer, activist, champion of freedom.

One story that may not be as well known about Jimmy, came in 1965. I attended a conference of Students for a Democratic Society, in Champaign, Urbana, IL. They were having one of the first movement discussions of "the woman question." A large number of men and women (100? or more?) were in a large room talking about issues related to this — this is before the women's movement burst forth on the national stage (in 1970). It was a time when chauvinism meant "intense national feeling" and we didn't even have a language to talk about women's concerns.

Well, while the women were trying to explain the problems and frustrations they experienced in the world, men would cut them off, tell them that it wasn't true what they were saying and that, on the whole, the men were right and the women didn't really know what was going on.

Jimmy got up with some friends and said something like, "if the women want to get their act together, they better go talk about these issues among themselves, the men are just getting in the way." And with that, he walked out with some of his friends.

At first, I thought, "we're all in this together, we can work this out." But soon it was clear, that Jimmy was right. The men were not letting the women talk to even find the language to express their concerns, let alone to find the common bonds of sisterhood. And I led a group out to talk together. Out of that came the beginnings of the independent women's movement in Chicago (where I returned after the conference) and perhaps in other places around the country.

It really struck me how he sized up the situation and what was needed, drawing on his experience in the civil rights movement. He was committed to unity and to struggle for a better world. He was an exceptional talent and an exceptional person, and will be very missed. But we carry on his legacy as we continue this work.

When I heard he was ill, I wrote him with this story and some others. I certainly hold him in my heart.

Heather Tobis Booth

 

As remembered by Joyce Ladner
July 30, 2009

I want to express my sympathy to Jimmy's family at this home going ceremony. I know you will miss him but — also know that you will cherish the vast memories he leaves you.

Jimmy and I met in the fall of 1961 through the nascent student civil rights movement. I was a student at Tougaloo College, along with my sister, Dorie. A group of us — mostly Mississippi college and high school students along with a few Northern volunteers — worked hard, fast and furious to bring down the walls of segregation.

Jimmy was very committed to the principles of the movement that emphasized the right of the people to decide their fates through his fearless dedication. He was one of the tent poles of the Mississippi movement that held the rest of us together. Jimmy Travis was always willing to go anywhere or do anything to advance our struggle. We were all very young people — in our late teens and early twenties — but full of ideas about strategies to get what we then called our "freedom".

Jimmy rode the dark highways, going to some of the most dangerous places in the country that just happened to be in our home state of Mississippi. Beneath his quiet easy manner, soft voice and beautiful smile was a man-child of steel who was determined to destroy every vestige of racial segregation.

When Jimmy was shot in the neck while riding in the car with Bob Moses, it was only a momentary setback for us. Jimmy's steel nerves that allowed him to pick up his work and keep going reassured us that we should allow nothing, not even the death of one of our fellow workers to slow down our work. We regrouped and held our resolve because of the courage he exemplified.

Jimmy's activism was like a roll call of civil rights history. He was every place — Jackson, Cleveland, McComb, Clarksdale, Canton. Hattiesburg, Greenwood and Greenville. Atlantic City with the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, the March on Washington and Birmingham. And the roll call goes on.

No one in the movement was more committed to empowering Mississippi's black and poor people than Jimmy Travis.

The passage of years among us civil rights veterans of the sixties served to fortify our bonds that were forged in the cauldron of pre-civil rights Mississippi.

The last time I saw Jimmy was two years ago in Greenwood at the funeral of another warrior, June Johnson. He was the same Jimmy, in a way, that I met forty-eight years ago. The smile, the gentle, easy manner were still there. Also, for him all these years later he maintained his resilience and resolve to continue the struggle. The best testimony of his life is that he was "Still Standing" with the ordinary people after all the battles of his youth and later years.

With his death, those of us veterans who fought the battles with him and the others who have died, feel as though a part of our souls have gone with him.

Go in peace, Brother Jimmy. You have earned it for a job very well done.

In struggle,
Joyce Ladner
Tougaloo '64

 

As remembered by Michael Simmons
July 30, 2009

in 1965, my friend dwight williams and myself had made a joint decision to leave temple university in join sncc during that summer. during our spring break we drove to atlanta to assess the sncc reality. during our first day in atlanta we met jimmie and he took it upon himself to mentor us while john lewis opened up his home to us. both dwight and i had originally planned to go to mississippi but jimmie strongly encouraged us to go to arkansas because he felt that the project was more dynamic and better organized. he was right.

over the years, while i was in sncc and after i left, i would run into to jimmie and we always enjoyed talking with each other. i fondly recall the time when he was working with worth long on elevating and making the culture of african americans known to both blacks and whites. if memory serves me right i think that this also took jimmie to africa with worth.

i was always aware of the tragic near death experience of jimmie being shot. as i still do, i constantly thought about how something like that would impact on me. i do know that it made me more aware of the terror that folks in south lived under that was a more intense form of racism than i had experienced growing up in philly. it was always a humbling reminder that, although i was black with parents from the south, i too was an outsider and that i was a student--not the teacher-- in the community.

although neither jimme or me worked to stay in touch with each other, when i saw him we always greeted each other like friends and brothers. it has been years since i last saw him but i always kept tabs on his movements through others. it made me feel good knowing that people were still enjoying his wonderful spirit. i loved him and i will miss him. may he rest in peace.

michael

Michael Simmons
Consultant
Human Rights Advocacy and Community Organizing

 

As remembered by Ira Grupper
July 30, 2009

Michael,

I worked in the SNCC office in Atlanta in 1965, but left for Mississippi prior to your arrival. I had the same impression of Jimmie as you. He was a real mensch a righteous human being. Honor to his memory.

Ira

 

As remembered by Thomas M. Armstrong
July 30, 2009

At one time, Jimmie Travis was a schoolmate at Tougaloo College. There were many days and nights of long conversations about the movement. For the Cause, we traveled some of the same roads. I have always known Jimmie as the Freedom Warrior that he was. He was a true warrior on the battlefield of freedom and justice for all. His bond with his people was unbreakable.

Jimmie was a true warrior, a friend, and most of all he was my hero. Rest in peace my friend.

Thomas M. Armstrong

 

As remembered by Dorie Ladner
July 30, 2009

I will always love and miss you.

Dorie

 

As remembered by Elizabeth S. Overman
July 31, 2009

A Tribute to Dr. Jimmie Travis

A man died this week.
He represented the best in all people.
He took bullets, endured beatings and crushed walls
Killing Jim Crow segregation in Mississippi
Furthering the cause of freedom.
A Hero?
Or, an ordinary man
Who joined others
Created opportunity
And, made the extraordinary
Ordinary

Elizabeth S. Overman
Copyright © July 30, 2009

 

As remembered by James Kates
July 31, 2009

We met at the Oxford, Ohio, training for the Mississippi Summer Project, and he quickly became my confidant and adviser. I don't remember how or why. But it was Jimmie who made a suggestion that resolved an uncomfortable personal situation. And then, after the summer, he came to stay with my mother, my brother and me near New York City, on various SNCC fund-raising excursions.

One of these was a Count Basie concert at the high school in Huntington, Long Island. In the intermission, Jimmie made his pitch for SNCC, telling still one more time the harrowing story of his own shooting. Afterwards, we stood together in the lobby of the high school auditorium, while members of the audience, most of them black bourgeois, pressed up to him to shake his hand, saying things like, "Thank you, brother," and "I'm so glad you're doing this work for us."

Then, all of a sudden, Jimmie wasn't there. I followed him as he ducked outside and walked around the school to stand next to the gymnasium, where he stayed, stock still, crying, for a few minutes. I didn't say anything, but I thought I understood. After a little while, we went back in.

There was another evening we were having dinner at the home of Dr. David Spain — the pathologist who had examined the bodies of Chaney, Goodman and Schwerner, among others, and written about the abuse they had endured — and Dr. Spain's young sons got into a sudden, fierce, sibling fight. Jimmie, from his height, grasped each one by a shoulder and asked each in turn, "You want to hit him?" Each answered, yeah! Then Jimmie dropped to his knees between them and said quietly, "So hit me." A short beat of silence, and he said, just as quietly, "You don't feel like hitting anyone now, do you?"

Among the many lessons in nonviolence I've learned, that one looms large.

Without Jimmie Travis, I might not have returned from Mississippi to my college education — a decision I made on his advice. After the mid 1960s, while Jimmie kept in loose contact with my mother, he and I lost continuous touch, only to reconnect in 2003, after the republication of Letters from Mississippi. His introduction of me to his family, and his generous interest in my own daughter, may help to forge a new generational bond. I have spent more time in the past half century missing Jimmie than being with him, but that does not make it any easier to come to terms with his death. And yet, there is an old African belief that a person dies twice — first in the body; and then when the last person who remembers him dies. If so, Jimmie Travis has a long, rich life still ahead of him, and I am proud to be part of that.

 

As remembered by Eddie and Mary Sue (Gellatly) Short
July 31, 2009

We remember Jimmy Travis from SNCC staff meetings. Whatever he said was taken seriously, because despite having been shot and injured seriously, he had the commitment and courage to keep on fighting for justice. He was an inspiration. We praise God for him.

Eddie and Mary Sue (Gellatly) Short


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