( 4UMF NEWS ) Freedom Rider Matthew Walker Jr. Passes Away:
Matthew Walker Jr., a civil rights activist who took part in one of the first and largest lunch counter sit-in protests in this country and later joined the Freedom Rides, died Sunday in his hometown of Nashville, Tenn. He was 74.
Walker spoke to the Daily News in February about his time in the Civil Rights movement — part of a month-long series on the “Unsung Heroes of Civil Rights” — recounting the day a white man pulled him off his lunch-counter stool and punch him in his mouth, knocking out two of his teeth.
He also recalled the time on May 23, 1961, in Montgomery, Ala., when he sat at the feet of Martin Luther King Jr. imploring the civil-rights icon to stay off of the Freedom Ride buses that were headed for Jackson, Miss.
“I knew that if people were hurt in Alabama, people would surely be killed in Mississippi,” Walker told The News in one of his last interviews. “We knew that ride from Montgomery to Jackson would be most perilous. We didn’t want to lose him, and we were convinced somebody was going to get killed.”
Walker long fought to have the actions in which he took part, along with more than a hundred others from the Nashville Student Movement, to desegregate lunch counters, recognized with a plaque or monument in downtown Nashville.
“It was a sacrifice,” Walker said of his time in the civil-rights movement. “But looking at the big picture, it was worth it. We made lasting change. If I had to do it all over again, I would.”
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