MRS. RUBY HURLEY WAS THE SOUTHEAST REGIONAL DIRECTOR OF THE NAACP during the 1960 Jacksonville Youth Council sit-in demonstrations and Ax Handle Saturday. She came to Jacksonville the day after Ax Handle Saturday (see picture) and ran the NAACP's Southeast Regional Office from Jacksonville for more than 2 months while things were "hot and heavy"(my words).
Most of us in the Youth Council were high school students, and Mrs. Hurley became our NAACP "surrogate mother." She advised me as Youth Council President, and Mr. Rutledge H. Pearson, our Youth Council Advisor, as you would expect a Regional Director to do, but Mrs. Hurley never made decisions for me or for the Youth Council generally. She and Mr. Pearson allowed us, even during the circumstances of this Ax Handle Saturday race riot and our subsequent actions, to make our own decisions.
In 1943, NAACP Executive Secretary Walter White appointed Mrs. Hurley Youth Secretary of the NAACP. During her tenure, the Youth Chapters grew from 86 to over 250, with a total membership estimated at 25,000.
Walter White tapped Hurley again in 1950, this time with a temporary assignment coordinating membership campaigns in five southern states for the NAACP. She was living in New York and relocated to Birmingham, Alabama, where she opened the first permanent NAACP office in the deep south. The following year, White appointed Mrs. Hurley to the position of SouthEast Regional Director.
Hurley's work in the Southeast Region brought her together with many leading activists of the time, such as Medgar Evers, a martyred NAACP hero killed in 1963. Evers, the Field Secretary in the Mississippi State Office, and Hurley jointly investigated the murder of NAACP Mississippi activist Reverend George Lee in 1955. Also that year, they joined in the investigation of the notoriously brutal murder of 14-year-old Emmet Till, killed in the small town of Money, Mississippi, after reportedly whistling at a white woman, Carolyn Bryant, which did not happen. Bryant's husband, Roy Bryant, and J. W. Milam took Till from the home of his Great-uncle, brutalized and tortured him before eventually killing him, wrapping an industrial fan around his neck, and throwing his body in a river. Some credit the murder and ensuing trial with launching the modern Civil Rights Movement, as the acquittal of the suspects was a blatantly racist miscarriage of justice that attracted international attention. Both Milam and Bryant admitted they DID kill Till after being acquitted; and years later, Carolyn Bryant admitted she lied.
Hurley also worked on the case of Autherine Lucy, who in 1956 became the first Black student to attend the segregated University of Alabama. In addition, she worked actively at the national level with Executive Secretary Roy Wilkins and Legal Defense Fund head Thurgood Marshall.
MRS. RUBY HURLEY
In the 1960s, local and national television featured Mrs. Hurley in connection with her efforts and the Jacksonville Youth Council 1960 sit-ins and Ax Handle Saturday. Mrs. Hurley and Ella Baker, another Great Unsung Civil Rights Legend, are featured on one of the 2009 United States Postal Service issue stamps, Civil Rights Pioneers.(see picture) Mrs. Hurley passed in 1980. She is one of my She-roes and was indeed a Great Lady.
Rodney. L. Hurst, Sr.