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Freedom Rider to speak at local church Sunday

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Pickett Ruckett United Methodist Church will host a special Black History Service on Sunday, Feb. 28 at 10 a.m. with a special Black History program to follow service.

After the service, a display will be set up to celebrate Black History, and a “soul food” lunch will be provided by the church members.

Special guest Dr. Rip Patton, one of the original Freedom Riders during the early 1960s, will speak at the special service. Described as a “passionate storyteller of actual events that are part of the history of civil rights in the United States,” Patton is a Nashville native and graduate of Pearl High School. He later attended Tennessee A & I State University majoring in music education.

As a student at Tennessee State University, Patton became a member of the Marching 100 and the jazz bands and joined the Student Central Committee of the Nashville Christian Leadership Council.

His involvement soon led to Civil Rights workshops, sit-ins and lunch counters, pickets at local stores, demonstrations, arrests and eventually becoming a 1961 Freedom Rider.

On May 24, 1961, he traveled to Montgomery, Ala., where he boarded one of the first buses to Jackson, Miss. There the 21-year-old Patton was arrested and held in Hines County Jail before being transferred to Parchman Maximum Security Prison. He was imprisoned for a total of 62 days.

After being released, he returned to Nashville where he continued his civil rights activities.

He was soon invited to New York City where he worked at the Congress of Racial Equality from 1961 to 1962.

Vocationally, Patton has been a professional musician, playing with a symphony orchestra and with jazz greats Lou Rawls, Les McCann, Kossie Gardner and Roy Ayers. His most recent position was a professional long haul driver, earning distinction as a Divisional and Regional Driving Champion, District Driver Instructor, Captain of the America’s Road Team and a member of the Federal Highway Advisory Committee for eight years. Patton is now retired.

Patton is currently the co-chair of the Pearl-Cameron Community Choir. He is the percussionist for several local groups, including “New Spirit and Friends” and “Just Us,” a choral group committed to the preservation of Negro spirituals.

In 2008, Patton and 13 other Freedom Riders were honored by TSU and received the Doctor of Humane Letters degree.

Patton annually teaches a civil rights history class at Stetson School of Law in Gulfport, Fla. He facilitates a tour of southern historical civil rights cities with his class and along with the students of renowned author Raymond Arsenault of South Florida University.

Pickett Rucker United Methodist Church is located at 633 Glover Street in Lebanon. Pastor Robert Jordan serves as minister. You can reach the church at 444-1164.

Everyone is invited to attend.

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