Jonathan Myrick Daniels
Yesterday, I was on a pilgramage to honor, celebrate, and remember Jonathan Myrick Daniels. There were over a hundred people, perhaps two hundred, in attendance at a service organized by the Episcopal Dioceses of Alabama and the Central Gulf Coast. We used a modification of the order of worship we use for Eucharist services on Sundays with the readings appointed for the commemoration -- for, you see, Jonathan is celebrated on the Episcopal calendar as a martyr. We did parts of the service on the Square in front of the Courthouse, at the Jail, at the site of the Cash Store (where Jonathan was killed), and in the courtroom of the Courthouse. Mixed in with our Bible readings were appropriate passages dealing with Jonathan's incarcertation and death from Outside Agitator, a book I have linked in the right column of the main page of this blog.
The following is from the website of the Episcopal Divinity School (formerly the Episcopal Theological School):
JONATHAN MYRICK DANIELS was a 26-year-old volunteer civil rights worker and student at EDS (then ETS) in the summer of 1965 when he was shot and killed by a deputy sheriff in Hayneville, Alabama. Jon’s last act was to thrust Ruby Sales, a young Black woman (and currently a student at EDS), out of the path of the gunfire that took his life and seriously wounded another civil rights worker.
Jon was gripped by the power for commitment and witness he experienced in a moment he later described as “decisive, luminous, and spirit-filled.” His response to this epiphany led him to join in the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King’s famous march in Selma, Alabama. Initially reluctant, he decided to go to Alabama because he manifestly believed that it was what God wanted him to do. Eventually, that conviction led him to Hayneville, prompting him to risk, and ultimately lose, his life. In the summer of 1994, the General Convention of the Episcopal Church officially recognized Jonathan as a martyr, and gave huh his own liturgical day in the Church Calendar. And last summer, 32 years after Jon’s murder, it was possible at last to install a commemorative plaque in the town square of Hayneville, close to the site of the shootings.
Six years ago this week, I went to Hayneville, Alabama, for the dedication of the monument referred to above. The monument refers to Jonathan's work in Alabama: integration of churches and universal voter registration. As we stood around the monument at the corner of the Square, I looked over it to the center of the Square where the memorial to the Confederate dead from Lowndes County stood, and I thought this:
The past is like a big stone each of us has. Some carry their stone around and are burdened by it. Others use it as a platform upon which to proclaim their vision. Some chip away pieces and hurl them at others. And others use the stone as the cornerstone and build something new. How do you use your History?
All of us who practice voting rights law should remember Jonathan Myrick Daniels, a martyr for our cause.