J.D. Hunter lived a meaningful life

Published 12:00 am Thursday, May 22, 2003

News of the death of the Rev. J.D. Hunter should give all Selmians pause to reflect on how far we have come and how far we still have to go.

Hunter was one of the &uot;Courageous Eight&uot; &045;&045; eight ordinary men and women whose extraordinary courage in the face of adversity helped to change the course of history.

The Courageous Eight were members of the Dallas County Voters League. The group’s stated goal was to increase the number of blacks registered to vote.

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In Selma in the 1940s and ’50s and ’60s that was dangerous work.

When a court injunction was issued against all public mass meetings in Selma in an effort to halt the work of the Voters League and other groups, the Courageous Eight continued to meet in secret at great personal risk.

It was they who issued the invitation that brought the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to Selma. King’s presence here helped to further the efforts at voter registration in Dallas County and ultimately led to passage of the Voting Rights Act.

But we should remember that for all the prestige and media attention King was able to marshal just by his presence, it was rank-and-file activists such as J.D. Hunter who laid the groundwork for such achievements &045;&045; sometimes at the risk of their very lives.

Hunter was not unfamiliar with such risks. When he and 28 other black citizens petitioned the Selma superintendent of schools to integrate the city’s public schools, he was blacklisted from all forms of employment and credit. That blacklisting endured for years.

It is fitting that his death should remind us of the role played by people such as the Courageous Eight. Their names, again, are the Rev. F.D. Reese, Marie Foster, Amelia Boynton-Robinson, Ernest L. Doyle, Ulysses Blackmon, James Gildersleeve, Henry Shannon and J.D. Hunter.