Leon Riley

SCLC, Alabama, 1965
5354 W 62nd St, Apt 301
Indianapolis, IN 46268
Email: LRiley4@msn.com

Answered the appeal of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. for northern supporters of the civil rights movement to come to Selma. With a clergyperson from San Francisco, drove a latrine truck (offering "the finest rest stop on the March") accompanying the marchers to Montgomery, staying in the camps at night. Was recruited with several others to surround Dr. King at the end of his speech on the Capitol steps, linking arms to shield him, and run with him to safety at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church.

After returning rented latrines, drove a truckload of marchers back to Selma. Was stopped and harrassed by Alabama State Troopers, fined for a fabricated offense. Before reaching Selma, picked up LeRoy Mouton (the passenger in Viola Liuzzo's car which was ambushed by the KKK) along the roadside. Returned frightened passengers to Brown's Chapel in Selma. Mr. Mouton & I, advised by SCLC Security, reported to Selma Police Station, where we were individually interviewed by Alabama Troopers and the FBI.

After briefly returning home to California, I returned to Selma as a volunteer with SCLC & SNCC doing community organizing in Selma for two weeks.

This profound experience confirmed my life-long commitment to racial reconciliation. It filled me with hope when the Voting Rights Act was passed. The Act radically changed the political opportunities in our country, but the attitudinal changes have been agonizingly slow. So much remains unfinished. The election of Barack Obama would have been impossible without the sacrifices of the civil rights movement. Again my hope was renewed. And, again, 2009 has demonstrated that much remains unfinished. The constraints, even on the President of the United States, are powerful forces resisting change and resisting justice. But I am grateful for opportunities which have come to me to be part of a movement for justice and reconciliation.


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