The “Real Men” of the Civil Rights Movement: The Deacons of Defense (Part 1)December 11, 2012, by Bobby Glanton Smith
We must never, ever forget the supreme sacrifices that were made by gallant men who stood shoulder-to-shoulder on the frontlines of battlefields not of their choosing to defend freedoms they didn’t have in the country of the origin. The Deacons of Defense for Justice (most commonly known by the few people who know about them as simply the Deacons of Defense) were formed long after (1964) they donned the uniforms of the United States Armed Forces and traveled great distances to risk life and limb in support of spreading or protecting democracy. Again, it is beyond ironic how they served bravely and with valor in combat theaters in Germany, North Africa, France, Italy, Spain and Korea to defend freedoms they didn’t have in America, their home away from home.
The indignities these men suffered both home and abroad compelled them to draw and line in the sand and marshal their forces to put a stop to the violation of their human and civil rights. The following excerpt taken from Wikipedia and extrapolated from the work of Lance Hill, captures the essence of why the Deacons of Defense played a major role in expediting freedom for African Americans in these United States.
“Earnest ‘Chilly Willy’ Thomas and Frederick Douglas Kirkpatrick founded the Deacons of Defense for Justice in November of 1964 to protect civil rights workers against the violence of the Ku Klux Klan. Most members were veterans with combat experience from the Korean War and World War II. The Jonesboro Chapter later organized a Deacons chapter in Bogalusa, Louisiana, led by Charles Sims, A. Z. Sims, A. Z. Young and Robert Hicks. The Jonesboro Chapter initiated a regional organizing campaign and eventually formed 21 chapters in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. The militant Deacons confrontation with the Klan in Bogalusa was instrumental in forcing the federal government to intervene on behalf of the black community and enforce the 1964 Civil Rights Act and neutralize the Klan.”
In the next installment of this 4-part series I will share with you a heretofore unknown account from the Great Jim Brown about his connection to the Deacons of Defense for Justice.