Freedom Rider Bill Harbour speaks at JSU summer graduation
by Laura Johnson
Star Staff Writer
Aug 06, 2011 | 3378 views |  0 comments | 12 12 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Bill Harbour speaks at Jacksonville State University's summer graduation ceremony on Friday, Aug. 5. (Anniston Star photo by Stephen Gross)
Bill Harbour speaks at Jacksonville State University's summer graduation ceremony on Friday, Aug. 5. (Anniston Star photo by Stephen Gross)
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On Friday, Bill Harbour stepped up to speak out at a graduation for a university that refused to admit him in 1960.

The Piedmont native and former Freedom Rider told the crowd half-filling the stadium at Jacksonville State University that the Freedom Rides are not in fact over, but are carrying the impassioned to face new fronts. He implored students to take on poverty, teenage pregnancy, unemployment and the dropout rate at the as they enter their professional lives.

“I’m constantly asked by students, ‘What is left to do?’” Harbour said. “Today I ask you to keep the pressure on, because the Freedom Ride is not over.”

The crowd applauded at poignant moments throughout Harbor’s brief speech, which went on even though lightning, thunder and a few rogue raindrops threatened to interrupt the ceremony. Hand-held fans fluttered in the stands as dark clouds gathered and Harbour told his story.

When JSU wouldn’t take him, Harbour enrolled in Tennessee State University and participated in sit-ins, stand-ins and marches. While on the history-making bus ride to test integration of Southern transportation, he was arrested in Birmingham, attacked in Montgomery and continued on the ride until he was arrested in Jackson, Miss., and jailed for 49 days.

Before the ceremony was over, the clouds gave way to sprinkles that turned to rain. Some left the stadium early as lighting flashed in the distance while others were simply distracted by the weather.

Others wouldn’t be deterred from hearing Harbour’s speech.

“His commitment in what he believed in is a lesson to all of us,” said Bethany Battles, a marketing graduate.

After graduating from college, Harbour worked as a teacher, served in President Johnson’s “War on Poverty” and retired from the United States Forces Army Command in Atlanta, where he still lives today.

Star staff writer Laura Johnson at 256-235-3544.
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Freedom Rider Bill Harbour speaks at JSU summer graduation by Laura Johnson
Star Staff Writer

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