A very varied group of activists arrived in Nashville, aiming to board a Greyhound bus bound for Jackson, Mississippi. The date was July 29, 1961. The youngest of these were Catherine Prensy of Madison, Wisconsin, Rick Sheviakov of Berkeley, California, and Judith Scroggins of Cinncinnati, Ohio. They were all eighteen. Still, not the youngest of Freedom Riders, by any means. That's a story for another time.

The eldest of the group was Hilmar Pabel, a 50-year old man from Munich, Germany. All of the riders were white, by the way. Along with Pabel and the eighteen-year olds, were Woollcott Smith, age 20, of East Lansing, Michigan, 21-year-old Ellen Ziskind of New York City, twenty-nine-year-old Sally Rowley of New York City, and 31-year old Byron Baer of Englewood, New Jersey. You'll never believe what I learned about him.

But first, try to nail down which of the women activists of July 29 attended Columbia University (New York, NY) and Antioch College (Yellow Springs, OH), and was a CORE volunteer in New York for roughly a month before going on a ride. Send me a message with your answer, and if you're the first person who's right I'll send you a free Freedom Rider mughsot sticker (which rider is featured in the sticker will be a surprise) exclusively available from me. Connect with me at arthaus.detroit@gmail.com .

Also, if you can figure out which of the male activists was working as a photjournalist for Quick Magazine at the time of their participation (the link above will provide you a reasonable clue), the same deal applies. The first person who emails me with the correct guess or answer will get a sticker

I will tell you this about one of the riders. When I read about Woollcott Smith, who was born in Maryland, and grew up in Michigan, I was surprised to learn imprisoned activists weren't allowed to receive news of current events. He relayed that the male Riders at Parchman, the infamous prison all incarcerated activists were held in, were visited weekly by a priest and a rabbi. I know. A joke is forming in your mind.

So, a priest and a rabbi walk in behind bars...to offer sermons...in which they'd covertly slip news of the world, be it world news or sports. Their appearance had to be a welcome drink of water.

I'd like someone to tell me their hunch which of these riders' parents were friends with Paul Robeson and had Leadbelly sing at their wedding party? Again, the first message (arthaus.detroit@gmail.com) with the correct hunch here will net an exclusive Freedom Rider mugshot sticker.

This would be a rider who remembered being spat on and having eggs thrown at him once when picketing a grocery store in Nashville. He'd been in Nashville for nonviolence training. More than spit and eggs, he had to deal with having a knife pulled on him by a local racist who aimed to intimidate him. When speaking to journalist and photographer Eric Etheridge, author of Breach of Peace, the rider recalled:

"Then some guy pulled out a knife and stood in front of me. I stepped aside and went around him, but the tension continued to build.

Our leader/trainer, who apparently knew this guy, shouted, "Hey Larry, what kind of mill you got in that rod of yours?" Which meant, "What kind of an engine do you have in your car?" Larry laughed, answered the quesiton and the tension was broken.

I remembered a line from a poem, "He drew a circle to shut me out, but I drew a larger circle to include him in." For me, that was the turning point. A larger circle had been drawn, and I saw the power of nonviolence. At midnight I left Nashville on the bus for Jackson."

Now, Byron Baer was a television and movie special effects technician. A brainiac who'd attended Cornell for a few years. Before he went to Mississippi, he'd made a transistor radio.

"So what." you say?

He smuggled this homemade miniature radio into Parchman Prison. And it wasn't detected in the strip search.

That's right.

Reportedly, an earpiece, transistor circuits, a 20-foot-long super thin aerial wire, and a hearing aid battery were place in an oblong piece of plastic and placed inside two condoms.

Baer is among many Freedom Riders with an impressive resume. He'd attended New York, Columbia, and Cornell Universities. His time in movie and TV special effects was short, but in subsequent years he served as a legislator for the state of New Jersey. He served as a member of the New Jersey General Assembly twice -- 1972-1974 and 1974-1994 -- and served as a Senator from 1994-2005.

He and Woollcott Smith found a rather comical way to use the miniature radio unnoticed. Their gain was AM country music and AP news. A lot of big news continued to unfold in the world, both near and far, and they didn't have to miss out. You ought to read Breach of Peace some time to discover the humor of how the radio was operated, and how its use impacted the visits of said rabbi and priest.

Hilmar Pabel and Byron Baer have since gone to the great beyond. But maybe we can find ways to make sure their stories, and their motivations for justice, live on.

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