Freedom Rider to speak at Stetson on Tuesday



Ernest “Rip” Patton Jr. was a 21-year-old Tennessee State University student and the drum major in the marching band in 1961 when he made the life-altering decision to become a Freedom Rider.

Professor Robert Bickel, left, is shown with Freedom Rider Ernest “Rip’’ Patton during a visit to Stetson Law in Gulfport, Fla.(COURTESY OF STETSON UNIVERSITY)
Professor Robert Bickel, left, is shown with Freedom Rider Ernest “Rip’’ Patton during a visit to Stetson Law in Gulfport, Fla.

In celebration of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Patton will be speaking at Stetson University on Jan. 22 at 7 p.m. This event is free and open to the public.

In his presentation, Patton will uncover forgotten history about the Lawson workshops, Nashville sit-ins in 1960, the March on Washington in 1963, and the signing of the Civil Rights Act among other historical events.

Risked violence, death
The Freedom Riders were a group of men and women – Black and White, young and old – who boarded buses, trains and planes headed for the American South. Their purpose was to test a U.S. Supreme Court ruling outlawing segregation in all interstate public facilities, such as bus stations, which often had separate drinking fountains, restrooms and lunch counters for Blacks and Whites.

The trip, which began in Washington, D.C., and ended in New Orleans, La., was marred by beatings, bombings, arrests and imprisonment of the Freedom Riders, and it was into this situation that Patton volunteered to step in 1961. Patton was one of 14 Tennessee State students expelled for participating in the Freedom Rides.

The Freedom Riders risked violence, humiliation and death for freedom and dignity, and in so doing they changed the path of American law and made history. Patton’s presentation is an opportunity to hear a first-hand recounting of that history.

The Stetson University College of Law presented Patton with the honorary doctor of laws degree in 2008. For the past four years, Law Professor Robert Bickel has coordinated a 2,000-mile “Civil Rights Movement and the Law Tour” through the Deep South for law and history students of Stetson and other area universities.

Watch the video, produced by the Stetson College of Law, documenting this educational trip similar to that taken by the Freedom Riders at

Event details
Will You Get on the Bus?: Intimate moments with original 1961 Freedom Rider Dr. Ernest “Rip” Patton on Martin Luther King, Jr. and other Civil Rights leaders takes place from 7 to 8:30 p.m. on Jan. 22 in the Stetson Room, Carlton Union Building, 131 E. Minnesota Ave., DeLand.

The free event is sponsored by the Stetson University Cross-Cultural Center and the Marchman Program for Civic and Social Responsibility, and Stetson University College of Law.

Sankova reception
Earlier, from 6 to 7 p.m. on Jan. 22, there will be a Sankofa African-American Traveling Museum Opening Reception sponsored by the Stetson University Cross-Cultural Center.

Curator Angela Jennings will share opening remarks at the free event.

Guided tours of the Sankofa African-American Traveling Museum will take place Jan. 23 from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. It will be in the Cross-Cultural Center, Stetson Room, Carlton Union Building, 131 E. Minnesota Ave.

One of the foremost collections of African-American history spanning the period of 1860 to the present, “Sankofa” takes audiences on a journey through slavery, the era of King Cotton and days of Emancipation.

It also tells the stories of Ida B. Wells, the Tuskegee Airman, and other famous African-Americans. This exhibit includes more than 20 tables of historical artifacts, pictures, writings and other tangible items which are enhanced with a guided tour, question and answer session and dramatic presentation.

The exhibit will be closed from noon until 1 p.m.



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