Ralph David Abernathy, Sr. was another one of the greatest African-American Civil Rights Movement leaders. He was a minister and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s closest friend. It was Abernathy who collaborated with Dr. King to create the Montgomery Improvement Association, which led to the Montgomery Bus Boycott. He became president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and led the Poor People’s Campaign for the March on Washington, D.C in 1968.
Abernathy was one of eleven children, who grew up in Linden, Alabama. His father was the first African-American to vote in Marengo County, Alabama, and to serve on a grand jury. Abernathy enlisted in the Army during World War II. Upon returning home he enrolled at Alabama State University. He later became the first #black man on radio in Montgomery Alabama. He earned his Master of Science after graduating with a Bachelor’s degree in Mathematics at Alabama State University.
He later worked as the Dean of Men at his alma mater, and took reigns as Senior Pastor of First Baptist Church, which was the largest black church in Montgomery. He served there for ten years.
Abernathy and Dr. King organized the Montgomery Bus Boycott. In 1957, as a result of the boycott, Abernathy’s home and church were both bombed, and luckily no one in his family was harmed. During Abernathy’s life he was honored with more than 300 awards and five honorary doctorate degrees. He died in 1990 from two blot clots that traveled to his heart and lungs, five weeks after his 64th birthday. The inscription on his tomb simply reads “I TRIED.”