Robert S. Graetz, Rare White Minister to Back Bus Boycott, Dies at 92

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tags: civil rights, Alabama, montgomery bus boycott

As a young Lutheran minister in Alabama in the 1950s, the Rev. Robert S. Graetz Jr. would alternate his driving routes to thwart attackers. He once measured a 15-inch-deep crater left by a bomb that targeted his home in Montgomery. And to shield his young children from fear — and the shards of glass that would follow another explosion — he would play a “game” with them where they would crawl behind a couch when there was a suspicious sound outside.

Defying the menacing of the Ku Klux Klan, intimidation by the authorities and isolation among fellow clergymen, Mr. Graetz remained a rare, unbowed voice for desegregation among white people in Alabama, supporting the Montgomery bus boycott that transformed the nation’s budding civil rights movement.

“I have always contended that the absence of fear is not the point,” Mr. Graetz wrote in “A White Preacher’s Message on Race and Reconciliation: Based on His Experiences Beginning with the Montgomery Bus Boycott,” a memoir published in 2006. “What you do when you are afraid is what makes the difference. We often had good reason to be afraid.”

Mr. Graetz, who seemed to toggle seamlessly between foot soldier and field general in civil rights and social justice causes for roughly seven decades, died on Sunday. He was 92.

Read entire article at New York Times