In Memory of Civil Rights Martyr David Colston Sr., Camden, AL January 23, 1966

scope078 jetDeath threats, firebombing, incarceration and assassination of Southern Blacks seeking freedom and equality continued from the time of enslavement until long after most people believe The Civil Rights Movement ended. Alabama is steeped in the blood of martyrs who have never made the history books, but they were heroes to us. The fact that death was a potential price to be paid by Freedom Fighters was always on our minds.

Mr. David Colston, age 32, was a local resident who had participated in Wilcox County voting rights protests. He and his family were pulling into the parking area outside Antioch Baptist Church to attend a civil rights mass meeting. A white farmer, Jim Reeves, deliberately bumped Colston’s car. When Colston got out to protest, Reeves shot Mr. Colston in the head at close range in front of the Colston family and dozens of community members coming out of the church.

SCLC leader, Daniel Harrell and local leader Rev. Frank Smith were leaders of the meeting in the church. After the police took Reeves into “protective custody.” Harrell and Smith reconvened the mass meeting with a eulogy for Mr. Colston and called for a march the next day. Camden native , King scholar and author, Lewis V. Baldwin, who was still in high school at the time, recalled the march of hundreds of Wilcox County Black residents, as being very solemn, almost silent.

The next day, SCLC Photographer Bob Fitch arrived with Martin Luther King Jr., to take the photos that appeared in Jet Magazine. Fitch told me that the family was devastated but grateful for King’s consoling visit.

Nearly 50 years later, Colston’s namesake nephew, David Colston, was elected as the first Black representative from Wilcox County to serve in the Alabama State Legislature. Of all the civil rights murders in the South in the 1960’s, the Colston assassination is recalled most vividly by the then youn Wilcox County Freedom Fighters. Typical of the times, despite witnesses, the murderer was acquitted. May the Colston family, their relatives and neighbors draw some comfort from knowing that David Colston’s sacrifice is mourned by many of us who continue to fight for racial justice.

Update August 2013: Despite a conservative backlash that consistently drives out the majority of promising young Democrats, David Colston has fulfilled the dream first, of being an Alabama state trooper who truly understands justice and now, of continuing to serve in the statehouse in Montgomery. He will run for a second term in 2014. With the outcry and awareness generated by the recent Supreme Court decision on the 1965 Voting Rights Act http: and the tragic Trayvon Martin case, perhaps good-hearted, strong and smart Alabamans of all races will vote for progress during the 3013 November’s mid-term elections. The future is in your hands: move forward or continue a slide backwards.

8 comments on “In Memory of Civil Rights Martyr David Colston Sr., Camden, AL January 23, 1966

  1. David Colston says:

    I have thoroughly enjoyed reading the blog in regards to the Civil Rights and voting rights in Wilcox County during 1965. I am humbly grateful for the countless individuals who played a role in Civil Rights initiative locally as well as nationally. Many paid the ultimate price during the Civil Rights Movement, including my uncle for whom I am named after, David Colston. He lost his life while attending a Civil Rights meeting. Perilous situations and ordeals were experienced, but they continued with the task at hand. I am so thankful because without the selfless and courageous acts, I would not be afforded the opportunities I have today. They paved the way for me in numerous ways. Currently, I am employed as an Alabama State Trooper, my childhood dream, and I was elected to the Alabama House of Representatives in 2010. During the commemoration of the anniversary of my uncle’s death and numerous others who lost their lives during the Civil Rights Movement locally and nationally, I would like to take this opportunity to thank them for fighting the battle for equal rights and opportunities. I will pass on this history to my family lineage so they can pass it on to their children and so forth to improve and increase their knowledge of the impact and importance of the Civil Rights Movement.


  2. Maria Gitin says:

    Thank you so much David. Your uncle would be proud. Another Camden native, King scholar and author Lewis V Baldwin just wrote this after he read yours: “I visited your civil rights blog, and was touched by the pictures and the tribute to David Colston. I consider Colston one of the martyrs of the civil rights movement. Even to this day, it is hard for me to imagine how a man can be so heartless as to casually take another man’s life. If I had anything at all to add to your tribute to Colston, it would be: “With your death, something died within all of us in Camden. Because of your spilled blood, we can now claim a measure of redemption. Thanks for your great sacrifice.”


  3. Michelle says:

    David Colston Sr was my grandfather. It is sobering to know my grandfather lost his life to the movement, so that his son David Colston Jr. (my dad) and future generations would be able to live in a more just society. Additionally, I am proud of David Colston (cousin), who has shown passion and dedication to ensure civil liberties are upheld.


  4. Georgia Colston McIntosh says:

    I have enjoyed reading the numerous articles on the struggles of African Americans in Wilcox County and other areas as well during the Civil Rights Era.The article about my uncle (David Colston,Sr.) always send a chill down my spine whenever I read it. It is good to realize that his death was not in vain.Today August 16, 2013 his nephew, my brother (David Colston) serves in the Alabama House of Representatives and has served for the past three years.He will be running for re-election in 2014. Although there has been a lot of backlash as you have stated from conservatives in the state house,Representative Colston continues to fight for the rights of all people.


  5. sallie hayes says:


    I am so proud of you for taking a stand. My prayer is that GOD continue to strengthen you and guide you always.


  6. Maria Gitin says:

    Lewis V Baldwin wrote February 2013: To David Colston Sr “With your death, something died within all of us in Camden.  Because of your spilled blood, we can now claim a measure of redemption.  Thanks for your great sacrifice.”


  7. Delorise Cunigan says:

    Thank you for maintaining this valuable piece of history.


  8. Curtis Thomas says:

    I was in mrs. Colston’s, fourth Grade Class at Camden Academy, when her Husband was killed. It was a scary time but it made you grow fast


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