The Rev. T.J. Jemison, a past president of the National Baptist Convention USA Inc., a founding member of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and the organizer of the .first boycotts against segregated buses died Nov. 15 in Baton Rouge, La. He was 95.
Jemison is remembered for organizing the boycott of Baton Rouge, La. public buses in the summer of 1953 in response to a strike by bus drivers against that city’s abolishment of a rule forbidding Blacks to sit in the first 10 rows of a bus. According to The New York Times, that boycott informed a similar action the next year in Montgomery, Ala. organized by a young Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King.
“Knowing that Jemison and his associates had set up an effective private car pool, I put in a long-distance telephone call to ask him for suggestions for a similar pool in Montgomery,” Dr. King wrote in his 1958 memoir, Stride Toward Freedom.
In a statement, President Obama said he was saddened to learn of the civil rights pioneer’s death.
“As we mark the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Justice, we remember the legacy of trailblazers like T.J. Jemison, and commit ourselves to carrying that legacy forward in the years to come,” Obama said. “Our nation is a better place because of Reverend Jemison’s struggle and sacrifice, and our thoughts and prayers are with his family, friends, and loved ones.”
Jemison served as president of the National Baptist Convention USA Inc., the largest Black religious organization in the U.S., from 1982 to 1994 according to The (Baton Rouge, La.) Advocate. During his tenure, he helped found the Baptist World Center in Nashville, Tenn. but also faced criticism for his 1991 support of Mike Tyson, who faced a rape allegation at the time.
Jemison’s body lay in state at the Louisiana State Capitol on Nov. 22. His daughter said her family is proud of his legacy.
“Today is a tribute to how he helped all mankind, irrespective of color. Daddy really believed in the rights of all people,” Pollard said, according to NPR.