hey leader! reverend james orange
reverend james orange (shown, at right) passed away last week.
the obits tell at least part of his story. according to jesse jackson, there might have been no march from selma to montgomery without reverend orange. according to joseph lowery, the southern christian leadership conference founder, "without james orange, there would have been no movement across the deep south."
the atlanta constitution noted that reverend orange
held to the philosophy of nonviolence, reflecting peace with dignity. To that end, he recalled, “I’d take a hit. I’d take a lick, a whupping—without retaliating. But I never, not once, went limp in a demonstration. I would walk to the truck, or they’d beat me to the truck, but I still wouldn’t go limp. I never would.”
he may not be an unsung hero of the civil rights movement, but reverend orange was the kind of hero who was far more concerned with inspiring others than with promoting himself or his own courageous accomplishments. "hey, leader!" he'd call to new friends and old, as "both greeting and rallying cry," ostensibly to "imbue a sense of purpose and responsibility into every person he met."
the obits rightly focus on reverend orange's work leading up to the voting rights act of 1965 but he continued to fight injustice to the present. when our paths crossed in atlanta a few years ago, he struck me as a big strong guy -- more like a just-retired defensive tackle than a distinguished reverend in his sixties. though his warm manner put everyone at ease, i felt like a total fraud when i heard that greeting.