Montgomery Bus Boycott — Biographic Sketches
Dr. Gwen Patton Collection, Trenholm State College Archives

See Montgomery Bus Boycott for background & more information.
See also Montgomery Bus Boycott for web links.


Aurelia Eliseera Shine Browder (Coleman) January 29, 1919-February 04, 1971, was a pioneer in the Civil Right Movement of the 1950's and 6O's. She was the lead plaintiff in the lawsuit (Browder vs Gayle), which caused the end of the Separate But Equal Laws of the Land (Plessy vs. Ferguson - 1886) and the end of segregated busing in Montgomery, Alabama and ultimately the South.

On February 01,1956, at 12:45 p.m., Aurelia S. Browder, Claudette Colvin, Mary Louise Smith, Susie McDonald, and Jeanette Reese filed the Lawsuit in Federal Court and with the exception of Jeanette Reese, who withdrew from the case due to intimidation from white community, testified before a three (3) Federal Judge Panel: Frank M. Johnson, Richard T. Rives and Seyborne Lynn on May 11, 1956 of their mistreatments and arrest on the Montgomery City Line buses on the respective dates of March 02, April 29, October 16, and October 21,1955, which caused them to file this lawsuit. They were energized by the arrest of Rosa Parks, who was arrested on December 01, 1955, for the same infraction thus were determined to put an end to segregated busing and second class citizenship for Negroes in the City of Montgomery, Alabama.

On June 05, 1956, the three (3) Federal Judge Panel ruled 2 to 1, that segregated busing was unconstitutional. The Supreme Court upheld this decision on November 13, December 17, December 20, and December 21, 1956, when the Supreme Court ordered the desegregation of buses in Montgomery, Alabama as remedy and resolution to the Browder vs. Gayle Lawsuit. This Supreme Court's decision legitimized the bus boycott, the actions of Martin Luther King, Jr. and to that movement's leaders.

She helped sustained the bus boycott with the use of her vehicles to would-be bus riders. Mrs. Browder was also active in the fight to increase black voters. To that end, she tutored many would be voters to assist them in passing voter examinations. She was diligent in her efforts to eliminate the poll tax charged to registered voters. She transported voters to the polls and would-be voters for registration.

Mrs. Aurelia S. Browder was a student at Alabama State Teacher's College, who graduated with honors; a member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), Women's Political Council (WPC), and the Montgomery Improvement Association (MIA), when she became the lead plaintiff in this landmark decision lawsuit (Browder vs. Gayle).


Mary Louise Smith (Ware), Civil Rights Pioneer, was a plaintiff in the lawsuit Browder vs. Gayle in 1956, which caused the desegregation of buses in Montgomery Alabama due to her testimony and others on May 11, 1956. This lawsuit ended the 6O-year old Plessy vs. Ferguson decision of the 1890's. Mrs. Ware lives and has lived all of her life in Montgomery, AL. She is the mother of 4 children, 12 grandchildren, and 3 great-grandchildren. She is a member of the Saint Jude Catholic Church of Montgomery, AL, where she also attended school in her youth.


Claudette Calvin was born September 5, 1939 in Birmingham, Alabama. Her biological parents are C.P. Austin and Mary Jane Austin (Gadson). She is the oldest of eight sisters.

During her early childhood her adopted parents Q. P. and Mary Ann Colvin lived in the rural community of Pine level, Alabama. Claudette attended the Springhill Baptist Elementary school then located on Ramer Route 1.

Later she moved to Montgomery and lived in an area called King Hill. She attended Booker T. Washington School from 1949 to 1956. She didn't finish her senior year but later she received her G.E.D. She attended the Alabama State Teachers College in Montgomery for one year.

At the age of fifteen, what would be later known as her greatest achievement in life, was her significant role in desegregating the buses in Montgomery Alabama. Claudette is one of the unsung heroes in the Civil Rights Movement. Nine months before Rosa Parks arrest, Claudette was arrested on March 2, 1955 for a similar act of resistance. She was one of the four plaintiffs who filed a lawsuit against segregated bus seating. The presiding attorney was Fred D. Gray. The case was successful. It was a jubilant day in the history of the city of Montgomery.

As early as 1979, Claudette's name started surfacing during Negro History Month. The Birmingham News did a feature story by Frank Sikora in 1980, New York Governor Mario M. Cuomo awarded her with the MLK, Jr. Medal of Freedom in 1990. The bronze medal is New York State's highest honor of recognition for those individuals of outstanding accomplishments in the field of civil and human rights. Harry Belafonte received the medal in 1986. The Selma Times Journal featured her in 1991, The National Voting Rights Museum and Institute added a picture display of Claudette in 1994. There was a one minute flash of her story on Lifetime Television in 1995. Claudette was featured in the cover story of USA Today Newspaper on November 25, 1995, the Montgomery Advertiser in 1996 and the Washington Post on April1 12, 1998. She has been mentioned in several books such as "Freedom's Children" by Ellen Levine, "Parting the Waters" by Taylor Bunch, "Bus Ride to Justice" by Atty. Fred D. Gray, "The Montgomery Bus Boycott and the Women Who Started It", the memoirs of Jo Ann Gibson Robinson, to name a few.

Claudette has worked for 30 years at a Catholic Nursing Home as a nursing assistant. She is the mother of two boys, the eldest died at her home in 1993 and the youngest is a Certified Public Accountant in Atlanta, Georgia. She has five adorable grandchildren and she can say that she has reaped the fruits of her labor through them. She resides in Bronx, New York and enjoys reading and cooking.

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