For many years I spoke with Kate Charley, retired school teacher and community leader in Coy, AL at least once a month. She was beloved by many former students who visited often and was a forceful booster for projects to benefit the community such as the Bessie W. Munden Playground, the Camden Christian Academy and most of all, Little Zion #1 Missionary Baptist Church. In January 2013 at age 79,she passed of natural causes and was laid to rest in the church cemetery after a large, loving service. When I miss her voice, sharp insights and friendship, I re-read some of what she shared for “This Bright Light of Ours,” my book about Wilcox County voting rights in which her family was deeply involved.
Kate on Race Relations in Camden
“A bit of progress has been made, but schools are still segregated, housing is segregated. There’s been a little bit of progress in job opportunities in banks and government. But the white and Black employees don’t eat lunch together, and don’t get together outside of work. If we go in the bank now, they (whites) will treat us alright. They act polite enough in public, but don’t mix outside of work.
The KKK, segregationists are now lower key now. If they want something done – violence or whatever, they get a Black man to do it, give them money or drink or buy them a car. They get them to go agitate against the others who are trying to accomplish something, like our little school, the Camden Christian Academy. But they, the KKK, didn’t go away, they are just out in their hunting clubs, probably cryin’ in their beer.”
Kate on Loyalty
“ You are probably not a Dodgers fan because you live closer to San Francisco (Giants) but once I am loyal to something or someone, I stay loyal. I always liked the Dodgers. I had to get a new truck so when I was picking it out I said I believe I’ll take the blue one, you know “Dodger Blue”; that’s the truck I drive. I am loyal that way.”
Please share your remembrances of Kate and read more about this remarkable woman in “This Bright Light of Ours: Stories from the Voting Rights Fight” www.thisbrightlightofours.com
My name is Matthew Wilmer Ms Charley was my French Teacher in 60-61. Oh my God I will never forget and thank Ms Charley and all my wonderful Teachers at OCA had it not been for these wonderful Teachers I don’t know what would have happend to me in my life.I never will forget Ms Charley wanted me to deliever an Oration in Montgomery Ala for a Scholarship for college. Ms Charley and Mrs watts came to my house to talk to me and my mother Ms Charley really wanted me for this contest and as i look back i often think how stupid i was for not being in that contest, but thats how wonderful and dedicated our Teacher were.
My mother, Rev. Willa Mae Ervin Lockett was born and raised there in Wilcox County. AL. I am so glad to learn of Mrs. Kate Charley. However, I am sadden, not shocked at the relationship that does not exist between the blacks and the whites. My grandmother, Mrs Minnie Kirk Ervin Anderson and my mother told us children about life there and in the South period. Many things have changed but so much has remained the same! Thank God for the Mrs. Charleys of the movement!
What a wonderful legacy and example for generations to follow!