In a recent post, I shared my interest in the Civil Rights Summit held at the LBJ Library in Austin, Texas, April 8-10, 2014. Curious to see if I could uncover any family stories related to the Civil Rights movement, I sent out a mass email. I received only one response – from Dee Webber McLean stating that her father, Fred M. Webber, participated in the 1963 March on Washington. (Fred M. Webber was my Grandmother Abbie’s brother.) I sent a quick reply with a list of questions, but Dee didn’t have any additional information and suggested I contact her sister Bea.
I received this reply from cousin Bea in response to my queries:
I can’t tell you very much. I was 20 and ignored half of what was said at the dinner table. See below in red.
How did he make the decision to attend? No idea. He was involved in civil rights in Baltimore (and I am sure well before Baltimore), so I am sure it was a no brainer for him.
> Did he speak about civil rights from the pulpit? As Dee told you, he did not have a church at the time, though he did substitute at churches all over the Presbytery, preaching most Sundays. I would say he probably did. (At the time he was living in Baltimore serving as the General Presbyter, an executive, so he didn’t have a church.)
> I don’t know your family history well enough – was the family in New York at the time? At what church was he pastor? See above.
> How did he travel to D.C.? Did he go with a group? I would suspect it was with a group and probably by bus.
> What did he say about the experience? Sorry, I have no memories.
> Are there any photos or other memorabilia from the march? Not sure, but will keep an eye out when and if I am in family stuff. See Xmas letter attached; that’s actually how I know he was there.
> Was there any push back from the community because of his participation? Again, as he was not the pastor of a church, he did not have a local community, but rather the entire Presbytery of Baltimore and I am sure there were many who disapproved.
I do know he was very involved in the ecumenical movement, and participated in the council of churches or whatever its name was. I am sure this is something he did throughout his entire ministry. I do recall there were some meetings at our house in Catonsville attended by some Black clergy and a Catholic priest, Father Joe Connolly, I think was his name. In the Fred M. Webber historical document attached, keep scrolling through it and you will see some stuff from when he went to Rome representing the United Presbyterian Church of the USA and the Protestant Churches of America at the elevation of Archbishop Sheehan to Cardinal. This was, I know, one of the highlights of Daddy’s life and service in ministry. I’ve attached some other stuff that I happen to have in my computer. I also have a booklet of memories about Daddy that the family presented to Mother in 1995. If you’d like it, let me know.
Of course, I said I would like to receive the booklet of memories!
And here is that one sentence from Carol and Fred Webber’s 1963 Christmas letter that tells family and friends that Fred participated in the March on Washington:
Some tasty crumbs to follow!
If you would like to read more about Fred M. Webber, click the Fred Myron Webber tag/link at the bottom of this post.
I’ve mentioned before that I am still suffering the effects of “chemo brain” – affecting my abilities to plan and organize and follow through. I’ve followed the trail of some of the crumbs above and I am excited to share them. Normally, I would be coming up with a plan on how to weave what I found into some kind of narrative. It just isn’t happening. So – although I probably won’t be entirely pleased with the results, I’m just going to dive in and do my best with what I have. Maybe something simple… like chronological order? If I keep challenging this brain, maybe it will overcome the effects of those toxic drugs more quickly. Bye-bye, perfectionism!
BTW, a friend sent me an interesting article about chemo brain last week. I knew some of the information, but was not aware of the link between chemo brain and a family history of Alzheimer’s (I’ve got that) nor the association with also having peripheral neuropathy (yup – I’ve got that too. Fortunately not as bad as some people get from chemotherapy.).