Rev. Wille Bolden
(1938 — 2016)


As remembered by Lula Joe Williams
January 19, 2016

Good Morning All,

Many of you may know by now, but another Civil Rights Soldier has passed away. Rev. Willie M. Bolden passed away on last evening (Jan. 19th); we will certainly miss him, but we will never forget his contribution to the Civil Rights Movement and his fight for Human Rights.

Please keep his wife (Dr. Georgian), his daughters and all other family members lifted up in Prayer. Though my Heart is heavy right now, I remember so much about Rev. Bolden and his works, but most of all I remember how he Loved us all. He always wanted to make things better; He was a Mentor to many. May God continue to Bless his spirit of caring and grow within all of us. I will keep you posted on the arrangements as soon as they are finalized. Peace and Love to you all, Lula Joe


As remembered by Tom Houck
January 20, 2016

This is a major loss. Willie was my mentor in organizing. Loved him very very much. He was the leader of the foot soldiers and forever his work and life will be part of history.

Good Bless you my brother and my friend.


As remembered by Elisabeth Omilami, CEO Hosea Helps
January 20, 2016

Rev. Willie Bolden has died.

Born in Sumter South Carolina, Rev. Bolden gwas hired by Martin up in the South, although his service in the U. S. Marines Corps and a two-year residency in New York gave hm experiences in other regions.

He was called to work with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in his early twenties, and came to Atlanta after being trained and working closely with Rev. Hosea Williams for years in Savannah Georgia.

Willie Bolden passed away surrounded by family and friends. "He was as close to me as my brother", Elisabeth Omilami states. "I can never remember him not being around and when he was around I felt safe and at peace. He was truly a warrior and one of my fathers' adopted students who learned quickly and had a special charm and charisma that made his job of educating the masses and organizing marches his key talent. I will miss him terribly as he was the last man to see my father before his death in 2000", states the CEO of HOSEA HELPS.

Willie Bolden worked as a staff member in many movements of the period including Savannah, Albany, Birmingham, St, Augustine and others. Having worked as a longshoreman and a hotel bellman, he knew well the problems of workers and the special challenges blacks have enchained. He felt strongly dedicated and indebted to the nonviolent movement for giving his life purpose.

Willie Bolden's career in the non-violent movement began in Savannah in the 1960's and spanned the entire period of the reform campaigns. Today as a Senior Pastor he will remember the years he spent as Director of Employee Relations for the Atlanta Public Schools. A native of Sumter, South Carolina, Mr. Bolden grew up in the South, although his service in the .S. Marine Corps and a two-year residency in new York gave him experience with other regions.

Quotes from the amazing Rev. Willie Bolden who passed away today

Q: How would you describe the circumstances that brought you into the movement?

Bolden: I used to watch Hosea (Williams) and his group when they would march down to the park across the street from the Manger Hotel where I worked. Every morning they had a march down there. Hosea would get up on top of this Indian statue, and he would stand on top of it and make very fiery speeches. I observed that for a number of days, weeks. One day I decided while standing outside listening to him — always before he would speak they would sing freedom songs, and I caught myself all of a sudden patting my feet and clapping my hands — I decided I was going to get little closer in order to see and hear what was really going on.

I saw that Hosea and those were going to have a strategy meeting. During those days the struggle was to integrate restaurants and hotels and that kind of thing. So I decided to visit he office and see what was going on. I did not participate, I just kind of listened. Finally the strategy was that they were going to attempt to go into the hotel across the street. Hosea said that they had been marching down here for weeks and months and now its time for us to take some direct action.

I decided, while listening to him the following day, that I was going to make it a little more accessible for them to get in. Normally what would happen when they marched, the rule was to lock the door and make sure none of them got in. This particular day I decided to stay on the inside and when I saw them coming I unlocked he door and allowed them the opportunity to come in. I did that. I unlocked the door and went downstairs as if nothing were happening. Of course, it was later found out that I was the last one upstairs and that nobody could have done that but me, so they terminated me.

It was one of the best things that ever happened to me. When they terminated me, then I decided that I would get more involved. So I began to go to the meetings and to go to the Chatham County Crusade for Voters Offices. Now, Hosea (Williams) a very charismatic guy, very dynamic and very persuasive, He had, in my estimation, a lot of the attributes that I had, except that I was focusing mine in an un-positive direction and his was focused in a more positive direction. I was always able to get people to follow me, even in school, even out in the streets where I was really doing nothing but running from club to club, pool room to pool room, people tended to center around me. I don't know what it was, maybe it was just me, maybe it was my loud mouth (laughs). Maybe it was because I was tired. My family — at least my mother — was very civic oriented. She was President of the P.T.A. when I was in junior high school, and they wanted to elect her President when I was in high school but she wouldn't accept it. She was very civic oriented. She led marches down on the school Board to stop trucks from coming through the neighborhood and disrupting the classes. I guess that side of me, in terms of being a civic minded, I developed from my mom, because I was always kind of with her as a kid.

So I got involved with Hosea and SCLC. Hosea began to give me certain assignments to do and naturally I would try to do the best I could, even though I didn't know much better what to do. Hanging around him I certainly did learn and develop very quickly and became active in the civil rights movement. Even before I came to Atlanta I used to ride with him down to Albany Georgia. He would go down there, it seemed like once a week, sometimes twice a month, to speak because they always had a great movement going on. I would ride with him down there. I always wanted to stay close to Hosea because he had something that I had but I could not develop it. I didn't know quite how to develop it and put in in a positive role. I felt that hanging around Hosea I would certainly develop that attitude, and it turned out that way.

Then Martin Luther King, Jr. came to town. Hosea got martin to come to town. One of the first, if not the first, night march that ever took place in the civil-rights movement, took place in Savannah. Dr. King came to town and, of course, I had the opportunity to meet him through Hosea (Willams) That was one of the best things that ever happened to me, meeting this man. I guess what really got me with him was I met him that afternoon. There were literally hundreds of us that night when he spoke at the church I grew up inm the St. Philip AME Church. Folks were hanging all over, off the rafters, outside, everywhere. I mean the place was jammed. He gave a speech and that night, I, like many others, went around to shake his hand and to tell him what fine job he had done. He said , "I really appreciate it Willie." I went off quite stunned, trying to figure how out of all these folks he met for the very first time, what caused him to remember my name? And, of course, like anyone likes to be called by your first name by great folk and important folk, and that stuck with me. I told Hosea I thought I wanted to work with SCLC because I found out later that Hosea was contemplating moving to Atlanta to work for Dr. King (SCLC), and I said I'd like to go too.

Willie Bolden at first served in such capacities as passing out leaflets and planning for and organizing visits by King and other SCLC speakers. Soon he asked for larger assignments and got them. He worked in Social Circle, Georgia, in other parts of Georgia, including Macon and Taliaferro County, and in the Carolinas, Mississippi, Alabama. He was in the midst of the intense St/ Augustine Florida campaign in 1964. But it all started for him in Savannah Georgia with Rev. Hosea Williams and it ended for him here in his beloved Atlanta surrounded by family and friends. Adieu my brother I am regretful that I did not spend that time with you but I will tell your story whenever I can.


As remembered by Barbara Jean Williams
January 21, 2016

There is a hole in The Universe and I am deeply saddened. Bolden's been my friend for 52 years, just a phone call away. Who am I going to call now that will answer with care in voice "HEY, Barbarjean?"


As remembered by Kathy Acker

Dear Lula,

Thank you for your letter and your beautiful thoughts about Rev. Bolden. I know your heart is breaking.

Rev. Bolden was such an enlightened and loving teacher. Lula and "Leaders" - as Rev. Orange called you - you may find the following video link deeply meaningful, especially at minutes:
     36:34: His thoughts on Marks, MS, the poorest county in USA
     43:04: Entering Resurrection City
     44:27: How he became "The Wagon Master" - and he laughs :)      47:20-48:29: St. Augustine
     48:30-51:25: Marion, AL
     with 50:05: A very dramatic moment

Willie Bolden, Reflections on Georgia Politics

With love and gratitude to you all; and, of course to Rev. and Mrs. Bolden,
Kathy Acker


As remembered by George Shinhoster
January 22, 2016


I was especially sadden to hear that Willie Marion had passed. My earliest memories of him began in Savannah,Ga when we both worked with Hosea an the crusade for voters. Subsequently a long list of us came to Atlanta for the journey of a lifetime. In past few months Bolden call me to express his concern and offer a prayers for my wife's health condition. Durning other conversations he was very consoling but never let on to the depth of his own health. I will long remember Bolden, his commitment to the cause, his consistent presence and his compassion for others.

Thank you for keeping us all in the loop.

Be blessed


As remembered by Deric Gilliard
January 25, 2016

Rev. Willie M. Bolden was a true unsung hero of a magnificent era that uniquely transformed this nation. It was my absolute honor and pleasure to have known him and heard and shared some of the experiences that he lived. This nation — and especially those he sacrificed for — need always remember and cherish the contributions of these brave, tireless souls.


As remembered by John Reynolds
January 26, 2016

My friends, we have lost two courageous freedom fighters within the past couple weeks.

Last week we lost Willie Bolden, who many of you knew or knew of. Bolden was one of those fearless people who were a part of the Movement. That fearlessness was on display in St. Augustine, Florida, and in Selma. He was a great organizer and knew how to turn a community upside down. He was amazing at getting young people to follow him. Last Tuesday evening, we lost him. Most of you know that Bolden was on the planning committee for the SCOPE 50th Reunion. He was the first SCLC veteran that I talked to about the Reunion. He was enthusiastic about supporting the Reunion and felt that it was long overdue. However, very soon he became ill. But that didn't stop him from doing his best to support the Reunion efforts, particularly reaching out to the Mayor's Office and the U.S. Parks Department in Atlanta. I feel fortunate that for the last year and a half, we were able to spend time together and communicate with one another. I called him one day and he informed me that he was at the hospital and was about to be taken down for surgery. He and I talked and prayed with one another every other week up until the very end. Bolden will be truly missed. I think we are all better by knowing him and working with him.

The other freedom fighter that we recently lost is Robert Johnson, who some of us worked with as well. His funeral was held a couple weeks ago.

I encourage all of us to be in prayer for both Bolden's and Robert's family.


As remembered by Arkansas (Strider "Jim" Benston)
January 27, 2016

John & SCOPE,

It is sad to hear of Another Man Done Gone. I always appreciated Willie Bolden's powerful energy and "get-to-itness."

He was a constant inspiration in getting the work done.

He will be missed.

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