Obama lauds Baptist civil-rights icon

T.J. Jemison, a past president of National Baptist Convention USA Inc. who set the stage for Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, died Nov. 15.

By Bob Allen

President Obama noted the passing of T.J. Jemison, a civil-rights icon who organized a 1953 bus boycott in Baton Rouge, La., that became the non-violent protest model adopted by Martin Luther King two years later in Montgomery, Ala.

“Michelle and I were saddened to hear about the passing of Reverend T. J. Jemison,” the president said in a statement released Nov. 26.

t j jemisonJemison, who died Nov. 15 at age 95, was president of National Baptist Convention USA Inc. from 1982 to 1994 and oversaw construction of the Baptist World Center in Nashville, Tenn. His funeral was Nov. 23 at Mt. Zion First Baptist Church in Baton Rouge, where he was pastor for 54 years.

“With visionary spirit and charisma, he led the country’s first boycott of segregated seating on public buses 60 years ago, and he went on to help eradicate legal segregation and improve voting rights laws for disenfranchised Americans,” Obama said. “As a founding member of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and former president of the National Baptist Convention, he inspired Americans across our country with the courage of his convictions and the depth of his faith.”

“As we mark the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Justice, we remember the legacy of trailblazers like T.J. Jemison, and commit ourselves to carrying that legacy forward in the years to come,” the president concluded. “Our nation is a better place because of Reverend Jemison’s struggle and sacrifice, and our thoughts and prayers are with his family, friends and loved ones.”