Fort Myers man recalls days of fighting for civil rights, marching with Martin Luther King Jr.

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Willie Green. WINK News

Willie Green has been fighting for change and advocating for civil rights for more than 50 years.

The 83-year-old activist and former NAACP president remembers Lee County before desegregation and marched alongside Martin Luther King Jr. more times than he can count.

“He [Martin Luther King Jr.] had the courage to stand up and say what was wrong, was wrong,” Green said. “He was just an every day kind of a guy, very easy.”

Green said he fought for justice so his grandchildren would not grow up in a world of hate, or fear of being scarred, just as he was after being beaten by law enforcement.

“You finally quit thinking about your own safety and started thinking, started doing what Martin said, ‘If you haven’t found something that you’re willing to die for, you are not fit to live so you just push forward,'” Green said.

Green feels the environment today is more hostile than when he was growing up.

“If we don’t stay watch and if we don’t stay involved, the clock will turn backward,” Green said. “I have lived long enough to watch it go from zero to 100, and I’ve lived long enough to watch it back from 100 back to 50. We better watch, we are headed back to zero.”

When asked what his message was to others, Green responded, “I believe that if I had a good message, I would say beware, beware any nation that does not remember its past is doomed to repeat it.”

Below is an extended version of the interview with Willie Green:

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