Samuel Wilbert Tucker Patriarch of the Civil Rights Movement
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Samuel Wilbert Tucker Patriarch of the Civil Rights Movement

Although many people have not heard of this great man Samuel Tucker fought tirelessly for the Cause of Civil Rights.

“I got involved in the Civil Rights movement on June 18, 1913, In Alexandria. I was born black.” These words were not spoken by the famous Dr. Martin Luther King, or Malcolm X, or any of the other courageous men that we now associate with the civil rights movement of the 50s and 60s. They were spoken by a quiet man whose name is rarely mentioned in the annuals of history but, who is the Patriarch of the Civil Rights Movement. Samuel Wilbert Tucker.

Tucker gave very few speeches on the freedom for blacks, he did not publish a single book dedicated to the cause he committed his life too. In fact few people outside of those he defended in the courtrooms of Virginia have ever heard mention of him. Too the people of such towns as Farmville and Emporia he is a hero. He should be a hero to many of us as well.

Long before Rosa Parks made history by refusing to give up her seat on that Montgomery bus. Tucker at age 14 had caused quite a stir in his native town of Alexandria, Virginia by refusing to give up his seat on a street car to a white person.

Samuel Tucker knew that he wanted to become a lawyer at a young age and when he was kept from attending law school due to his race Tucker read under Tom Watson while researching cases for him at the Library of Congress. He took and Passed the bar exam when he was only 20 years old.

In 1939, long before the peaceful sit in at lunch counters across the South in the 50s, Tucker staged a peaceful sitting on the Alexandria public library, which while not accomplishing the goal to desegregate the library did force the good people to open an auxiliary library for blacks allowing them access to free reading material. While Tucker was unhappy with the move, many saw this as victory and a move in the right direction.

He interrupted his fight for civil rights to join the service during WWII and rose to the rank of infantry major.

In the 50s and 60s he dedicated himself to taking on civil rights cases in the courtrooms of Virginia and was instrumental in helping to lead the way to school desegregation.

He also fought to overturn Virginia's death penalty on the grounds of racial bias and the efforts of whites to keep African Americans off of juries.

While his two partners in the law firm of Hill, Tucker, and Marsh went on to fame. Oliver Hill would receive the Medal of Freedom under President Clinton and Henry Marsh III would become the 1st modern African American mayor in Virginia, Tucker would remain almost anonymous to all but the few who had crossed his path.

Samuel Wilbert Tucker died in 1990, having seen the end of segregation of schools, public buildings, and transport. He lived to see African American take their place as business leaders and politicians. He did not however live to see the true equality he so courageous sought.


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Comments (2)
Ranked #35 in History

this is an excellent article, I have done a series on women issues which has covered the women in this area as well. I might put the series here on factoidz I don't know because I would have to rewrite the whole thing and that is a lot of work.

Excellent, Martha; a great article.