White minister who supported Montgomery bus boycott dies

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — 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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