David J. Sookne

( — 2020)

NAACP, SCLC/SCOPE, 1965, Alabama, South Carolina, Tennessee

I spent spring break 1965 with 35 other U. of Chicago students, doing construction work on a community center in Somerville, Tennessee. We also had a voting rights march. The local civil rights leader who organized the march and the construction work was John McFerrin.

In the summer of 1965, I participated in the SCLC-SCOPE voter registration project in Crenshaw County Alabama. Much of that summer is described by Bruce Hartford, elsewhere on this web site. See Dave's driving lesson. We drove around rural areas, trying to convince people to register to vote. We also spoke in churches, and had one day of sit-ins in Luverne.

During Christmas break 1965, I did similar work in Barnwell County South Carolina. When I stood up to speak to a church crowded with people, I always had a moment of stage fright, but somehow I convinced myself that this was important, and I managed to get through it.

During the war in Vietnam, I participated in many antiwar demonstrations, and did some draft counseling, letting draftees know what their rights were.

I recently retired after 44 years of mathematical computer programming. For the last 16 years at UCLA, I have been involved in union activities on campus, and I am continuing with the union after retirement. I feel a connection between working for better treatment of workers on campus, and working for justice in the South is 1965.

Since 1965, whenever I feel my idealism waning, I remember how idealistic I felt in the summer of 1965, and I usually manage to push feelings of cynicism and pessimism aside, and get on with the task at hand.


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