(NNPA)—Although Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and John Lewis captured the headlines, it was the death of 26-year-old Jimmie Lee Jackson that inspired the 1965 Selma-to-Montgomery March.
After fighting in the Vietnam War, Jackson had returned home to Marion, Ala., which also happens to be the birthplace of Coretta Scott King, about 30 miles northwest of Selma in the soil-rich Black Belt region of Alabama. Although Blacks made up a majority of Black Belt counties, they were less than 1 percent of the registered voters.
A pulpwood worker, Jackson had attempted five times to register, none successfully. In an effort to expand voter registration in the area, James Orange, a Southern Christian Leadership Conference field organizer, and George Best of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee had moved to Perry County in early 1965. Before long, local residents were trying to register to vote, most of them for the first time.