Great Britain

White minister who supported Montgomery bus boycott dies

The Rev. Robert Graetz, the only white minister to support the Montgomery bus boycott, died Sunday. He was 92.

His daughter, Meta Ellis, shared the news in a Facebook post from the Southeastern Synod Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. The church did not mention a cause of death.

Graetz was the minister of the majority-Black Trinity Lutheran Evangelical Church in Montgomery. Graetz was the only local white clergyman to support the boycott. He and his wife, Jeannie, faced harassment, threats and bombings as a result.

Sparked by the December 1955 arrest of Rosa Parks, the planned one-day boycott of Montgomery City Lines became a 381-day protest of the segregated bus system that ended with a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that segregated public buses were unconstitutional.

The parsonage where the Graetzes lived was bombed in 1957, not long after the boycott ended, in a wave of attacks on civil rights leaders and churches. Four Black churches and the home of the Rev. Ralph Abernathy were also bombed that night.

A crude package of 11 sticks of dynamite wrapped around a small box of TNT was first thrown at the parsonage earlier that night but failed to explode. A second bomb was thrown and damaged the house. The Graetzes were at home with their children at the time.

Tafeni English, the director of the Montgomery-based Southern Poverty Law Center called Graetz a “remarkable civil rights and social justice leader.”

“Rev. Graetz was a kind and gentle soul, who along with his revered wife, Jeannie, dedicated his life to creating Dr. King’s vision of the Beloved Community,” English said.

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