Claremont COURIER/Wednesday, April 20, 2011 11
COURIER photos/Steven Felschundneff
Longtime Claremont resident John Maguire answers questions from a class of first grade students on Monday at Foothill Country Day School in Clare-
mont. Mr. Maguire gave a short talk about his experiences as one of the original Freedom Riders during the civil rights movement of the ʻ50s and ʻ60s.
Students hear first hand from original Freedom Rider
jail before being bailed out.
laremont Graduate University “It’s scary that he [Dr. Maguire] went to jail,”
President Emeritus John said Foothill first grader Kendryek Wu. “It’s good
Maguire helped bring a history his friend had money. Otherwise, he would have
lesson on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to Dr. Maguire spoke about the day that Dr. King
life for 33 first graders at Foothill died, in response to a question a student asked re-
Country Day School on Monday. garding the civil rights leader’s death on April 4,
One of the original Freedom Riders who trav- 1968. The Claremont resident was working on
eled by bus from Atlanta, Georgia to Birming- Eugene McCarthy’s 1968 presidential campaign
ham, Alabama, Dr. Maguire shared his at the time.
involvement with the Civil Rights Movement and “I was brokenhearted,” Dr. Maguire said. “I
his friendship with Dr. King that began back in was having dinner with friends who were plan-
1952. ning the campaign for Eugene McCarthy in 1968.
“I was in awe of him [Dr. King] and he was While we were planning, a woman came in and
only 3 years older than me,” Dr. Maguire said. told me, ‘your friend has been shot.’ I said, ‘No,
“When I first met him as a young man, I had Claremont Graduate University President Emeritus John no. He is in New York.’ But she told me he went
never heard someone as young as that speak as Maguire pauses as he listens to the question of a first grade back to Memphis. Then we turned on the televi-
well as he did. He was terrific. More than any- student Monday during a visit to Foothill Country Day sion and the announcer said with a shaky voice
thing else, he was a marvelous speaker but it was School in Claremont. that Martin Luther King had been shot.”
his courage that he showed that persuaded peo- First grader Nina Mesiwala was amazed that
in Anniston and Birmingham on the same day. Dr. Maguire knew Dr. King. Nina’s mom, Stephanie
ple. He was risking his life because people were re- Dr. Maguire recounted how his ride was also met Mesiwala, was responsible for inviting the CGU
ally after him.” with a hostile response in Alabama.
The memories Dr. Maguire shared with Bonnie President Emeritus to the school.
“People were beating on the side of the bus telling “It was interesting because he got to really meet
Bone and Robert Collins’ first grade classes spanned us to come out and fight,” Dr. Maguire recalled.
from the time he met Dr. King until the civil rights “There were about 3000 people throwing rocks at the Dr. Martin Luther King and it’s hard to imagine a per-
leader’s death in 1968. As a participant in the Civil bus. We were supposed to meet up with Dr. King’s son who’s still alive could have met Dr. Martin Luther
Rights Movement, the 78-year-old saw firsthand the good friend James Abernathy but he was running King,” Nina said.
resistance to the movement and even served 3 days in about 20 minutes late.” Fellow first grader Zaina Qamar was thankful for
prison as a result of his efforts. Dr. Maguire’s visit.
The incident caused Dr. Maguire and other Free- “It’s cool he got to visit us because maybe we
The former CGU president took his Freedom Ride dom Riders to consider whether they would continue
with several other civil rights activists in order to keep their efforts. Following 7 out of 7 affirmative votes would never have had an experience like this,” Zaina
the rides going after a Freedom Ride bus was fire- and a prayer by Dr. King, the group continued on- said. “When he met Dr. King, I don’t think he knew
bombed on May 14, 1961. Many of the Freedom Rid- ward. But they were soon arrested and spent 3 days in that he [Dr. King] would be a famous person.”
ers also suffered severe injuries at the hands of mobs —Landus Rigsby