Jonathan Myrick Daniels, Civil Rights Hero Who Sacrificed his Life for a Fellow Civil Rights Workers, Memorialized at Washington National Cathedral

SOMRSTIN_35-001-19: Selma marchers passing by house with people, negro and white. Man holding small American flag. Selma to Montgomery, Alabama civil rights march. March 25, 1965     •Scaled back to 3,600 pixels, longest length
SOMRSTIN_35-001-19: Selma marchers passing by house with people, negro and white. Man holding small American flag. Selma to Montgomery, Alabama civil rights march. March 25, 1965
•Scaled back to 3,600 pixels, longest length

A Massachusetts seminary student who sacrificed his life for a fellow civil rights worker 50 years ago is being memorialized in limestone near the entrance of the Washington National Cathedral. 

Jonathan Myrick Daniels, a lesser-known martyr in the civil rights movement, was 26 when he stepped in front of a shotgun blast meant for 17-year-old Ruby Sales in Hayneville, Ala. That selfless act, and Daniels’ brief summer of activism in Alabama, led the Episcopal Church to recognize him as a saint in 1991. An annual pilgrimage to Lowndes County is held in his honor.

Soon, an eight-inch-high likeness of Daniels will be ready for viewing by the 300,000 people from around the world who tour the National Cathedral each year. The carving, located about 11 feet off the ground at the base of an archway molding, will be part of the cathedral’s Human Rights Porch, putting Daniels in the same company as Mother Teresa and Rosa Parks.

Daniels was chosen in part because of his relative obscurity.

“He was young at the time, a lay person, and he saw a need and he went out and met it,” National Cathedral spokesman Kevin Eckstrom said. “In 1965, he saw a need to go assist African-Americans across the South, and he did that. On that day he died, he saw a more immediate need to save Ruby Sales’ life, and he did that.”

Daniels, originally from New Hampshire, was a student at the Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge when he and several of his classmates answered the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr’s call for clergy to help finish the voting rights march from Selma to Montgomery in Alabama in 1965, two days after state troopers beat marchers in what became known as Bloody Sunday.

Daniels stayed for most of the summer and was with a group of activists arrested in Fort Deposit for protesting whites-only policies at local stores. After a week in jail in Hayneville, on Aug. 20, 1965, he and the others were released and walked to a nearby store where they were confronted by the gunman. Daniels pushed Sales aside, saving her life and sacrificing his own.

The white shooter, Tom Coleman, was acquitted by an all-white jury, according to the Encyclopedia of Alabama, a reference compiled by several state historical and educational institutions.

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Source: Huffington Post | USA Today, Mary Troyan

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