by David Waters, Commercial Appeal
When the Rev. Fred Morton began his ministry in Whitehaven, in the midst of the racial tensions of early 1968, he thought he was ready for the challenge.
He'd grown up in Memphis, right between a Baptist church and a Methodist church in Highland Heights, and graduated from Treadwell High.
At Princeton in the late 1950s, he studied C. Vann Woodward's "The Strange Career of Jim Crow" and learned how white Southerners "capitulate to racism."
In seminary at Duke in the mid-1960s, he studied Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s "Letter from a Birmingham Jail," a scathing critique of "the white moderate, who is more devoted to 'order' than to justice."
Morton believed he was more devoted to justice. He didn't think he would capitulate. He didn't think things were so bad.
"Things seemed to be on a more moderate course here than in the deeper South," he said. "The local schools were programmed for gradual desegregation grade-by-grade. Desegregation of public facilities was progressing."
The sanitation workers strike shattered his view. The assassination of Dr. King, the ensuing urban riots, the advent of busing, and rising anxieties about crime and racial unrest shook what he thought was his firm foundation...