With the Civil Rights Movement often portrayed as a movement led from the top down, the career of William C. Patton showed the importance of the efforts of the person on the street. Patton struggled long and hard for voting rights for African Americans, working for the NAACP for years in his efforts to help black Americans gain their civil rights. His lack of national fame does nothing to detract from his untiring efforts on behalf of the rights of black Americans.
Born in 1910 in Marion, Alabama, Patton moved to Birmingham around the age of six to live with his grandparents. Patton's leadership abilities manifested themselves early in his life, at least by high school. In 1930, Patton began work as a teacher and principal in two rural Alabama counties. Describing himself as being like a "Caesar" in a small district, he expressed a preference for being in charge in a small place.
In 1945, Patton left teaching to become the Alabama State Manager of the American Woodmen, a fraternal life insurance association for African Americans. While working for the Woodmen, Patton joined the Birmingham Branch of the NAACP. When Alabama banned the NAACP in Alabama in 1956, Patton moved to Memphis, where he worked as National Director of the NAACP's Voter Education Project. Under Patton's leadership the NAACP registered millions of black Americans nationally, helping to establish their presence in national politics.
In his career as a voting rights activist, Patton faced threats, physical dangers, and harassment. He believed black citizens should invest in three types of power: brain power, green power, and political power. Patton encouraged people to vote and to educate themselves on issues without being overwhelmed by emotion.
Voting was not Patton's only interest. He involved himself in other community activities, such as the Jefferson County Committee for Economic Opportunity, the Birmingham Emancipation Association, and several other groups. Locally recognized for his work, Patton eventually received several dozen awards from organizations. Although overshadowed nationally by leaders such as Fred Shuttlesworth, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Rosa Parks, Patton deserves more fame if fame is desirable.
|Advisor:||Mohl, Raymond A.|
|Commitee:||Amos Doss, Harriet E., Jefferson, Robert F., Sterne King, Pamela|
|School:||The University of Alabama at Birmingham|
|Department:||Arts & Humanities|
|School Location:||United States -- Alabama|
|Source:||MAI 51/02M(E), Masters Abstracts International|
|Subjects:||African American Studies, Black studies, Black history, American history|
|Keywords:||African-American, Birmingham, NAACP, Registration, Voting, William C. Patton|
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