The Freedom Rider Series


Fifty-six years ago Friday. August 13, 1961. The Trailways Bus Station. Jackson, Mississippi...

Pictured above: CORE Activists George Raymond and Pauline Sims

George Raymond, Jr. was born in, raised in, and died in New Orleans, Louisiana. But he spent a lot of years in between elsewhere, in the trenches.

According to his sister's recollections last month for the Jackson Free Press, on the very night of his 1961 high school graduation, George Raymond rushed into his house started packing and told his folks -- who were used to his strong-willed determination -- that he was leaving. He didn't immediately clarify where or why.

While in high school, Raymond had become a member of the New Orleans chapter of CORE -- the Congress Of Racial Equality. He was leaving that night to go help fight the battle for freedom in Mississippi. And he was getting ready to go on a Freedom Ride. The photo you see above was taken just two months after his high school graduation.

George Raymond did far more than transfer at the tender age of 18 to ground zero for the ride. He worked tirelessly on the ground and eventually became the Project Director for Freedom Summer (1964 and beyond). And over those three years, the CORE activist organizer became such a force of nature behind voter registration efforts in Mississippi that his activities got the attention of white supremacists and Klan members throughout the state, including that of a notorious county Sheriff by the name of Billy Noble...who was anything but.

Noble made a promise to Raymond that he would harrass or beat him every time he crossed his path. He kept his promise.

Already married at the time, Raymond's wife Mytis did not have it easy, always waiting for the other shoe to drop. Death was well known as a potential outcome of activism, simply an extension of the outcome for slaves who'd dare to hope for better, escape to free ground, or even speak assertively. Here you had Jim Crow which was really just slavery by another name, with death always a neck whisper away.

As far as that close shave goes, it was George Raymond who worked with Medgar Evers and several other colleagues to organize the May 28, 1963 sit-in at the "whites only" lunch counter at Woolworth in Jackson, Mississippi. Medgar Evers, for his part, would be brutally murdered in his driveway a couple weeks later on June 12, his wife and children inside, never to see him alive again. Raymond remained in the thick of things.

Do you recall the story of the three missing civil rights activists that turned up missing in the summer of '64? Freedom Summer? One black guy, and two white guys? Chaney, Goodman, and Schwerner and a station wagon that went missing? George Raymond was originally designated to be in that car.

Pictured above: 1964 FBI Poster of missing civil rights workers, Goodman, Chaney, and Schwerner.

Entertainer Lena Horne had arranged for cars to be dispatched for CORE use and thatone had been driven to Mississippi specifically for Raymond to use. But there was a change of plans.

Pictured above: Lena Horne, 1946

We have tried this method in Montgomery, and it has worked amazingly well...A little brown man in India tried it...decided to confront physical force with soul force. -Martin Luther King, Jr., June 1956

Rather than Raymond, Chaney, from Mississippi, was using that station wagon to drive his two colleagues from New York City, as they went between CORE organizing commitments on June 21. They were arrested for "speeding." This arrest was intended, in part, as preamble to punishment for Raymond and, though I suspect it wouldn't have made much difference otherwise, Chaney had been mistaken for Raymond by arresting deputy Cecil Price. A lynch mob followed the three men when they left the jail. Chaney, Goodman and Schwerner would go missing from that day till August 4th of that year. We know now that they were murdered.

While Raymond had just missed paying the ultimate price on June 21, 1964, he died only nine years later in 1973 at the age of 30. The cause was heart failure.

According to doctors who had examined him, Raymond had the body of an 80-year-old man. This, from subjugation to extreme physical trauma. In his short and very intense life, it would seem -- to use the words of Dr. King -- that George Raymond confronted a lot of physical force with equal measures of soul force.

Above: Raymond and Sims

Looking back to August 13, the date of his Freedom Ride, Raymond and 22-year-old Pauline Sims of Putney, England, were the only CORE colleagues wielding the weapon of integration at public transportation on that day. It looks like theirs was the only scheduled Freedom Ride activity that month. They were arrested in the Jackson Trailways bus terminal. If I can locate information on Pauline Sims, I'll share it with bells on.

Meanwhile, where Raymond is resting, and wherever Sims is, I hope they know that for their strong soul force, we are ever grateful. And may it be said, that we're grateful for the long-suffering endurance and sacrifices of their loved ones as well.

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