On July 21, 1961, at the Jackson Airport in Mississippi, Hawkins Field, eight Californians and one Pennsylvanian stepped up as activists, prepared for what could become their last ride.
Civil rights activists were fully well aware of the risks they took volunteering as foot soldiers in the movement. They attended meetings and training sessions. They were taught what potential abuses to expect, even role playing some of the potential experiences. They knew of bus burning, of severe beatings, harsh imprisonments, other abuses, and murders. They knew they were making sacrifices. Some were brave. Others scared. Scared or not, they each stepped up.
Rabbi Allan Levine of Bradford, PA, accompanied eight recruits from California that day. All together, they included three women, two reverends, and two men of color. One of those two men of color, was one of the reverends. From California there was James Carey of Berkeley, Reverends Francis Geddes and John Washington of San Francisco, Joseph Gumbiner of Orinda, Russell and Mary Jorgensen of Berkeley, Charles Sellers, also from Berkeley, and Orville Luster of Daly City. No longer with us are Gumbiner, Luster, or Mr. and Mrs. Jorgensen.
July 21 was busy day. Roughly 400 miles away on the same day, Paul Breines of Madison, WI, Donna Garde of New York, NY, Joel Greenberg of Baltimore, MD, and the late Ruth Moskowitz of Brooklyn, NY, went to board and integrate a Greyhound from Nashville, TN, to Jackson, MS.
Rabbi Levine, and Mary and Russell Joergensen, were actually smiling for their mug shots. Oh, to be a fly on the wall. Wouldn't you like to know if those smiles came from joy, pride, nervous anxiety, or the tail end of a fellow recruit's wisecrack or humble encouragement? Like I said, some were reportedly brave. Others, admittedly scared. And scared or not, they all stepped up. We have to be thankful they did.