Monday, April 7, 2014

In memory of a Teamster who fought for justice his whole life

John Taylor's mugshot from his Freedom Ride
John Taylor, our Teamster brother and a 1961 Freedom Rider,  passed away March 6 at the age of 78. He fought for justice his entire life. 

He was a business representative and organizer for the Western Conference of Teamsters, and went on to be elected executive director of United Workers Association, Local 911 of the Western Conference. He also campaigned for the integration of schools and businesses in his home of Berkeley, Calif.

The Contra Costa Times told the story of his life in his obituary:
...his mother was unable to get work as a nurse in California because the state had ruled that her degree from Dillard University, a historically black institution in New Orleans, was insufficient. She had to earn the same degree again at UC Berkeley, and in 1946 became the first black registered nurse in California. 
Taylor, who joined the U.S. Air Force after Berkeley High and was honorably discharged in 1956, married his high school sweetheart Deanna O'Neal in 1955. It was around that time that he became active in the Congress of Racial Equality.
His involvement in CORE led him to become a Freedom Rider, one of the people who risked their lives to integrate bus and train travel in the United States.
John Taylor, center
In 1961, Taylor departed Berkeley to join the Freedom Riders in Jackson, Miss. There he participated in civil rights demonstrations and spent two weeks in jail after entering a "white only" waiting room in a Mississippi train station. He and other protesters were bailed out of jail by Thurgood Marshall, who would later become the first African-American to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court. 
In later years, Taylor proudly displayed his jail booking photos, along with a display about Marshall, in the annual African American History Month display at Easter Hill United Methodist Church in Richmond, where he was a longtime congregation member. 
He wanted future generations to know the sacrifices that had been made to give them a better life. 
"The children have got to know what these people have gone through to get where they were going," he said in 2007. 
In 2011, even though his health had declined, Taylor had the satisfaction of returning with other Freedom Riders to the Greyhound station in Jackson, Miss., where a marker was dedicated in memory of the barrier-breaking protest.
Rest in peace, brother.