E.D. Nixon was often thought of as "Mr. Civil Rights" in Montgomery during the struggle for civil rights. Respected by blacks and whites in Montgomery, Nixon served at various times as President of the Progressive Democratic Association, President of the Montgomery chapter of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, and local and state branches of the NAACP.
He was born in 1899. His father was a Baptist preacher. He grew up in Autauga County, AL. In formal education Nixon only reached the third grade level because he had to work. However, over the years he was to provide himself with quite an education.
In 1923 he went to work as a baggage porter and in 1924 he became a Pullman porter. In 1928 Nixon joined the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters and aligned himself with the ideas of A. Philip Randolph. Hearing Randolph speak Nixon learned he did not have to be content to enjoy his limited role in society while whites enjoyed full American citizenship. In 1938 Nixon started the Montgomery division of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters and served as president. The union was the first successful black union in Alabama.
He also worked on organizing other workers throughout Alabama into other unions.
In the 1940s the local NAACP was under the leadership of Nixon. Nixon had gotten to know Thurgood Marshall through his union work and become aware of the efforts of the NAACP. When violations of human rights happened and people were arrested their first call was usually to Nixon and he would go bail them out. While Vernon Johns was pastor of Dexter Avenue Baptist Church he would accompany Nixon on his emergency rescues. If people need a lawyer, Nixon would find someone to defend them. Nixon knew most of the judges, police, sheriffs and people at city hall. It was these acquaintances that Nixon used to help him help others. There were many times people appealed to him for help that he did not even know. It was Nixon who sent the calls out following the arrest of Rosa Parks in 1955 for refusing to give up her seat on a Montgomery bus to a white man. Nixon and white attorney Clifford Durr bailed Parks out of jail. He then called Ralph Abernathy, H.H. Hubbard, and Martin Luther King, Jr. and about 18 other people determined action finally had to be taken by blacks in Montgomery. Dexter Avenue Baptist Church was the meeting place for the creation of a new association the Montgomery Improvement Association and strategies were put in place for the Montgomery Bus Boycott.
E.D. Nixon is one of the unsung heroes of the Civil Rights Movement. He was determined to help those who could not help themselves and to provide a better future for all Alabama's citizens.
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