Wednesday, August 28, 2013

First Austin was blessed to have two strong supporters of freedom in our congregation, Volma Overton (1924 - 2005)  and Culbert G. (Cub) Rutenber (1909 - 2003 ).

Mr. Overton  was a celebrated civil rights leader and advocate for equality in Austin Schools. After serving in WWII, while he was riding on a city bus in Austin, Overton (in full military uniform) was asked to give up his seat to a white passenger; this incident profoundly influenced his life and inspired his dedication to fight for civil rights.

Overton’s most important accomplishment was his work that led to the desegregation of Austin public schools during the 1970s in which he made his daughter, DeDra, the lead plaintiff in a 1970 lawsuit. The matter resolved thirteen years later when a federal court finally declared the Austin school district desegregated. He participated in the 1963 March on Washington and the 1965 Selma to Montgomery March, where he marched alongside Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. In 1964.
Dr. Rutenber was active in several ecumenical organizations, including the Baptist World Alliance and the Baptist Joint Committee on Public Affairs. He was an outspoken advocate for Christian social activism and for dialog and action in the pursuit of peace. Rutenber was the author of five books: The Doctrine of God in Plato, The Dagger and the Cross: An Examination of Christian Pacifism, The Price and the Prize, The Reconciling Gospel, and Peace Keeping or Peace Making. 

A strong advocate of pacifism as a response to war, Rutenber was very involved in the Civil Rights Movement during the 1960s, marching in the South and participating in the March on Washington. He cultivated relationships with socialists in order to learn about their concerns for justice and he later was an emissary for the American Baptist Churches to countries behind the Iron Curtain, seeking to create a dialogue between Christianity and Communism.

As we remember the March on Washington and the call of Dr. Martin Luther King to Let Freedom Ring, we remember these two great defenders of justice whose lives intersected in Washington in 1963 and again at First Austin where they broadened our thinking and helped us re-confirm our commitment to "the riches of freedom and the security of justice."


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