SWFL man shares story of his involvement in the Civil Rights Movement

Author: Andryanna Sheppard
Published: Updated:
Jim Gregory (WINK News)

Meet a man caught up in history.

For 50 years, Jim Gregory hid his role in history. He got swept up in the Civil Rights Movement.

When we think about the Civil Rights Movement, most of us see Dr. King, Rosa Parks and maybe even Congressman John Lewis.

But, Gregory says he also had an influence on the segregated south.

“We tried to make a difference and I think in a great many ways we did,” he said.

For him, it all started in 1958 when officers arrested him, a white man, after he accidentally became part of a sit-in protest in Mobile, Alabama.

John Gregory during the Civil Rights Movement. (Provided to WINK News)

“When I woke up, I was in a jail cell along with these other guys and we spent the night talking about the differences: what was going on as far as with black folks and how restaurants, movies, things like this, were virtually off-limits,” Gregory said.

From then on, he became a freedom school teacher helping teach black adults to achieve the mission of freedom summer: pass the literacy test so they could register to vote in Mississippi.

“We did have some rather good success in Mississippi and Alabama,” Gregory said.

For more than 50 years, he didn’t tell people about his role in the Civil Rights Movement and the violence he and many others endured.

But Thursday, he shared his story with a small crowd at FGCU.

“I think that the results of the march, I have to think they are worth it. I have questioned that a thousand times. Why didn’t we stop? Why did everybody have to die,” he asked. “I reached the point where I believe the sacrifices that we made were worth it.”

Worth it, but we still have a ways to go.

Gregory now spends his time telling his story to groups across the country so that no one forgets what happened during the Civil Rights Movement.

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