Gary Yerkey ’66 reflects on how historic march led to Voting Rights Act of 1965

“The first time I made ‘good trouble’”, a reflective piece written by Gary Yerkey ’66 of Washington, D.C., was published today, Aug. 2, in The Christian Science Monitor.

The essay is related to Yerkey’s participation, along with other Ripon students and the Rev. Herman Jerome “Jerry” Thompson, then the College chaplain, in the historic Selma-to-Montgomery march for civil rights in March 1965.

Friday, Aug. 6, marks the anniversary of the signing of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 by President Lyndon B. Johnson. The act forbade “discriminatory voter registration policies and practices that had disenfranchised millions of Black Americans. It is widely thought that the president and Congress would not have acted so quickly, if at all, had it not been for Selma,” Yerkey writes.

Yerkey describes his motivation for joining the Ripon College contingent and what his experience still means to him and the world more than 50 years later.

John Lewis, a leader of the movement, once told Yerkey that, “in his opinion, the Selma-to-Montgomery march had a profound impact on America’s psyche, and that white students from the North had played a crucial role in the success of the march.

“Throughout his life, Mr. Lewis had urged anyone who would listen to make ‘good trouble, necessary trouble’ — nonviolent trouble — in the fight for justice.

“Now, more than 50 years later, I am at a loss to satisfactorily explain what drew me to Mr. Thompson’s office that day in early March 1965, and from there to Selma. It certainly had something to do with his inspiring passion for justice and for lifting up others. It was also the cause being pursued. … In Selma I had learned for the first time a real-life lesson in the importance of sometimes making ‘good trouble, necessary trouble.’”

Yerkey majored in philosophy at Ripon. Among many career roles, he served as The Christian Science Monitor’s Brussels-based correspondent from 1975 to 1987.

(Photo: Gary Yerkey ’66 in Selma, Alabama)

Related Posts

Zachary Morris '02

Zachary Morris ’02 named chair of the UW Department of Human Oncology

Zachary Morris ’02 has been named chair of the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health Department of Human Oncology. A leading expert […]

Rally Days 2024

Rally Days 2024 supports Forever Ripon campaign

Rally Days 2024 is LIVE! Our goal is to secure 1,000 gifts to support the Forever Ripon campaign between Wednesday, April 3, and Friday, April 5. Celebrate […]

James P. Danky '70

James P. Danky ’70 curates political cartoon exhibit to run in Milwaukee, Ripon

James P. Danky ’70 is the guest curator for the exhibit “Pow-litical Comics: From Ripon to the RNC,” to run April 12 to July 22 […]

Mark Franzen, Ripon College Class of 1983 and Chair of the Board of Trustees

Mark Franzen ’83 to begin term as chair of the Ripon College Board of Trustees

Mark Franzen ’83 of Paradise Valley, Arizona, and Green Lake, Wisconsin, will begin his term as the new chair of the Ripon College Board of […]

Gary Yerkey in Selma


Related Areas of Study