Rutherford CABLE, a leadership organization that provides business networking for women, has announced it will feature Dr. Ernest “Rip” Patton Jr. at its breakfast meeting Tuesday, Feb. 12, in Murfreesboro.
Held at Stones River Country Club from 7:30 a.m. to 9 a.m., the meeting will provide an opportunity for attendees to hear Patton’s first-person account of his role as a Freedom Rider in the early 1960s, when a group of courageous young people made history.
“The jailers would tell us to cut out the singing, using different words I can’t use here,” Patton said. “And we said ‘what are you going to do, put us in jail?’ So, we would sing a different verse, ‘Better get you ready/Oh, yes,’ and then, ‘They are coming from Nashville/Oh, yes.’ It was a message to the authorities to get ready, more were coming.”
More than 50 years ago, Patton, then a 21-year-old college student, joined with 12 other young people to board a bus in Montgomery, Ala. Just a few hours later, Patton got off the bus in Jackson, Miss., where he was arrested.
This group, later known as the Freedom Riders, were civil rights activists who rode interstate buses into the then segregated 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.
Patton, a Tennessee State University student, was the drum major in the marching band when he became involved in the Nashville Student Movement.
The movement was a nonviolent civil disobedience group who participated in sit-ins at lunch counters and stand-ins at movie theaters. When the bus rides began, Patton traveled to Montgomery to help reinforce the riders after the firebombing and siege of the First Baptist Church.
In Jackson, Patton was taken to the city jail and eventually transferred to the Parchman State Prison Farm. In total, Patton spent 39 days behind bars.
Following the Freedom Rides, Patton worked as a jazz musician, long-distance truck driver and community leader. Since his recent retirement, Patton has received several honorary doctoral degrees, including one from his original school, Tennessee State University.