James Bevel, 1936-2008
James Bevel was born in Itta Bena, MS, in 1936. He was a member of the Nashville Student Movement in 1961, and rode the first bus of Freedom Riders into Jackson on May 24. After bailing out, he began recruiting future Riders in Jackson, and set up a CORE office there. He went on to plan some of the movement’s major campaigns.
From the Washington Post’s obituary:
The Rev. James L. Bevel, 72, a fiery top lieutenant of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and a force behind civil rights campaigns of the 1960s whose erratic behavior and conviction on incest charges tarnished his legacy, died in Virginia on Dec. 19 of pancreatic cancer. . . .
“Jim Bevel was Martin Luther King’s most influential aide,” said civil rights historian David J. Garrow. He cited Rev. Bevel’s “decisive influence” on the Birmingham “children’s crusade” of 1963 that helped revive the movement, the voting rights march from Selma to Montgomery in 1965 and King’s increased outspokenness against the Vietnam War.