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Public Papers - 1990

Statement on the Death of Ralph David Abernathy


Barbara and I were deeply saddened to learn of the death of the Rev. Ralph David Abernathy. In recalling Ralph Abernathy's life, we inevitably recall the great campaigns for civil rights for black Americans in which he played such a signal part. From his father's farm in Alabama, he joined the ministry and became pastor of the First Baptist Church in Montgomery. Responding to Rosa Parks' refusal to sit in the back of a segregated bus, he and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., began the Montgomery Improvement Association to ensure the success of the boycott which led in turn to the desegregation of buses in that city. Later, he and Dr. King organized the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, of which he originally served as secretary-treasurer.

Throughout, Rev. Abernathy was committed to the principle of nonviolence. As he said, ``Violence is the weapon of the weak, and nonviolence is the weapon of the strong.'' Barbara and I join with all Americans to mourn the passing of the Rev. Ralph Abernathy, a great leader in the struggle for civil rights for all Americans and a tireless campaigner for justice.

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