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Voting rights activist dies at 68

By Fred Guarino

The Selma Times-Journal

 

Civil rights pioneer and former Lowndes County Commissioner Bob Mants of White Hall died in Atlanta Wednesday.

Members of Mants’ family and Lowndes County leaders confirmed Mants’ death. Details on any funeral arrangements were unavailable and are still being prepared by the family.

Mants, who is remembered for forging his own civil rights reputation, worked long and hard to help many people during the turbulent civil rights movement in Alabama and specifically in Lowndes County, according to Lowndes County Emergency Management Agency director and Moses Mayor Walter S. Hill.

Hill said Mants is credited with helping to lead the first march from Selma to Montgomery to press for equal voting rights on March 7, 1965.  Hill said, Mants, 16, was the youngest member of the Atlanta Student Movement and celebrated his 68th birthday on April 25.

“Mants’ life and legacy is etched in several history books recounting his valuable contribution in and to the civil rights movement in Alabama,” Hill said. “He will be remembered for his giant leap for humanity and civil rights and equal rights for all mankind … A small man with giant heart of compassion for humanity and equality is passes from earth to glory.”

According to exploresouthernhistory.com, Hosea Williams, John Lewis, Albert Turner and Bob Mants and a group of roughly 300 people marched through Selma to the Edmund Pettus Bridge over the Alabama River. The march went forward, and by the time the group reached the bridge, it included more than 600 people.

On the opposite side, a force of Alabama State Troops and horseback mounted vigilantes waited. As the marchers crossed the high arch of the bridge and descended to the side opposite, they were ordered to disperse.

“The situation quickly got out of hand and volleys of tear gas were lobbed into the crowd of marchers. As confusion reigned, the crowd of protesters was attacked with clubs and fled back across the bridge in confusion. The Sisters of Saint Joseph at Good Samaritan Hospital and the staff of a local clinic treated hundreds for their injuries,” the website reported.

The day, which came to be known as Bloody Sunday, proved a pivotal event in American history.

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