As remembered by Carol Ruth
August 2, 2023
I am sad to tell you that Freedom Rider Claude Albert Liggins passed away on this past July 7th, in Inglewood (Los Angeles), California. He was 83 years old and had been suffering for some time from a variety of ailments.
Claude was a stalwart civil rights warrior throughout the 1960's and 1970's. As a child and a youth in his birthplace of Lake Charles, Louisiana, he frequently was into what Congressman John Lewis called "getting into good kind of trouble." He spoke widely to college and children's groups about his experiences as a 1961 Freedom Rider, and the many other demonstrations at which he was arrested.
He told often about having as a kid of about 8 years old gotten onto a city bus in Lake Charles and taken a seat. When the bus driver told him to move to the back of the bus where other African Americans were seated, he refused, creating a crisis. The bus driver stopped, and got off the bus. The other passengers, all the African American adults, asked him to move, but he still refused.
When asked how he came to be a Freedom Rider, he loved to tell the story that although going to school in Los Angeles at the time of the burning of the first Freedom Rider bus in Annison, Alabama, his reaction to the news stories was: "Damm, I should have been on that bus!"
I had the honor to pair with Claude Albert Liggins in a variety of speeches and appearances during the last decades of his life. Always tall, handsome and charming, his stylish dressing and dramatic mop of prematurely white hair, made him stand out in every crowd. I will miss him a lot, and I am sad that a next generation of children will miss the opportunity to hear his stories.