Monday, September 21, 2020

Robert Graetz, the white minister who helped organize 1950s Montgomery Bus Boycott, dies at 92

Brian Lyman
Montgomery Advertiser

Sept. 21, 2020

The Rev. Robert Graetz, whose support of the 1955-56 Montgomery Bus Boycott made him a target of segregationists and sparked a career dedicated to social justice, died Sunday, his daughter Meta Ellis said. He was 92.

Graetz had been in hospice care.

Graetz, who ministered to the majority-Black Trinity Lutheran Evangelical Church in Montgomery, Alabama, helped organize the early stages of the boycott and helped drive people to and from work.

Graetz was the only white clergyman to support the boycott, and like other participants in the boycott, the reverend and his family persisted in the face of harassment, terrorism, and death threats that extended to their preschool children. Vandals poured sugar in their gas tank; slashed their tires and sprayed acid over their cars. White students on segregated school buses shouted "n---r lover" at Graetz and his wife, Jeannie, as they walked the street.

The family home was bombed twice, and while arrests were made, no one was ever convicted. Graetz often became emotional remembering the bombings in later years.

“People often said we had courage,” he said in 2001. “There were times when I was scared to death.”


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