Pilgrims retrace Daniels’ steps

Published 10:30 pm Friday, August 12, 2016

About a dozen students from New York stayed at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church on Friday night ahead of Saturday’s annual Pilgrimage in Hayneville.

Every year, students from the Episcopal Diocese of New York attend the Jonathan Daniels Pilgrimage during a tour of civil rights sites in the South. St. Paul’s was asked to host the group this year.

Most of St. Paul’s youth were participating in a football scrimmage at Morgan Academy Friday night, but recotr Jack Alvey said he hoped some local students could join later in the evening.

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“We are going to talk a little bit about Jonathan Daniels’ presence here, what that looked like and its history,” Alvey said. “It will be just a conversation about what that means for us today and how do we as a faith community respond to the issues of race in a way that encourage reconciliation and restoration in our community.”

In March 1965, Daniels, a 26-year-old from New Hampshire, answered the call from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. for students and clergy to come to Selma to take part in the voting rights march to Montgomery.

After returning to seminary for final exams, Daniels came back to Alabama in July, where he worked to register voters, tutor students and help the poor. He also met Morrisroe though politician and civil rights leader John Lewis.

On Aug. 20, 1965, Daniels and Morrisroe as well as 20 other protesters had just been released from a six-day stay in the deplorable Lowndes County Jail after picketing a whites-only store in Fort Deposit.

Daniels and Morrisroe walked with two black teenage girls to nearby Varner’s Cash Store, one of the few places that would serve nonwhites, to buy cold drinks for the group.

The four were met at the store’s entrance by shotgun wielding volunteer sheriff’s deputy Tom L. Coleman. He threatened the group and pointed his shotgun at 16-year-old Ruby Sales.

Daniels pushed Ruby to the ground, taking a full shotgun blast to the chest and stomach. Morrisroe grabbed the other girl, Joyce Bailey, and ran, but he too was gunned down in the lower back.

Morrisroe survived after an 11-hour surgery in Montgomery; Daniels died instantly on the store’s front stoop.

Every year the Episcopal Church in Alabama’s Commission of Race Relations, the town of Hayneville and the Lowndes County Commission sponsors an annual pilgrimage to remember Daniels and other civil rights martyrs.

Saturday’s event will start at 11 a.m. at the Lowndes County Courthouse. The Rev. Santosh Marray, The Episcopal Diocese of Alabama’s assistant bishop, will preach.