Steven McNichols
( — 2013)

CORE, MFDP, 1961-68 Texas, California

last Freedom Ride went to Houston, Texas. Eleven Californians + 7 Progressive Youth Association members were arrested on August 11, 1961. The four white males were thrown into the white male misdemeanor tank with 107 prisoners which was controlled by a small band of hardened criminals. The guards told them to beat us which they did. When our black attorney--George Washington, Jr.--visited us two days later, the head con went berserk and the tank erupted. We were bailed out and the other fourteen Freedom Riders were released on bond a week later. We were all convicted of unlawful assembly and returned to California after about a month in Houston. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals reversed our conviction a year or so later.

I became extremely active in the movement as a result of this experience. As Civil Rights Director for the National Student Association, I participated in the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party's Congressional Challenge Strategy Committee, supported SNCC politically after the split at the 1964 Democratic National Convention in Atlantic City, and received a White House pen for the signing of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. I worked for the Ford Foundation in 1967-68 making grants to civil rights organizations and leaders. I then obtained a master's degree in Economics from the University of Texas where I wrote my thesis on economic development in Southwest Mississippi, and was admitted to the Friar's Society. I also worked for Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley before we had a falling out and I became an attorney specializing in plaintiff's employment law.

My experience in Houston was a life-changing event for me which I will always treasure. I only wish I had done more.

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