Civil Rights Icon 'On a Par With Rosa Parks' Dead at 83

Bruce Carver Boynton inspired 1961 Freedom Rides
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Nov 25, 2020 3:15 AM CST
Pioneer Who Inspired 1961 Freedom Rides Dead at 83
In this Thursday, May 3, 2018 photo, Bruce Carver Boynton speaks at his home in Selma, Ala.   (AP Photo/Jay Reeves, file)

Bruce Carver Boynton, a civil rights pioneer from Alabama who inspired the landmark “Freedom Rides" of 1961, died Monday, the AP reports. He was 83. Former Alabama state Sen. Hank Sanders, a friend of Boynton’s, on Tuesday confirmed his passing. Boynton was arrested 60 years ago for entering the white part of a racially segregated bus station in Virginia and launching a chain reaction that ultimately helped to bring about the abolition of Jim Crow laws in the South. Boynton contested his conviction, and his appeal resulted in a US Supreme Court decision that prohibited bus station segregation and helped inspire the “Freedom Rides.” “He did something that very few people would have the courage to do. He said no,” US District Judge Myron Thompson said of Boynton in 2018. “To me he’s on a par with Rosa Parks."

Despite his pivotal role, Boynton was not as well known as other civil rights figure. Yet both his mother and father were early civil rights activists. His mother, Amelia Boynton Robinson, was savagely beaten while demonstrating for voting rights in 1965 and was honored by then-President Barack Obama 50 years later. “He was a pioneer,” said Sanders of the younger Boynton. “All of the Freedom Rides sprung from this particular action.” Sanders said Boynton paid a price for what he did, and initially wasn’t able to get a law license in Alabama. He spent most of his career as a civil rights attorney before retirement. Thompson said in 2018 that Boynton’s life “is a teaching lesson for all of us about how we can make a difference": “All he wanted was a cheeseburger, and he changed the course of history.”

(More civil rights stories.)

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