Rev. James Netters, Memphis pastor and civil rights chief, useless at 93

Rev. James Netters, prominent civil rights activist, beloved pastor, and one of the first black members of the Memphis City Council, has died at the age of 93.

Netters’ death was announced by Mt on Sunday. Vernon Baptist Church in Westwood, where Netters was a pastor for more than 60 years.

Netters began his decades-long work promoting civil rights for black Americans and black Memphians after participating in the 1963 March in Washington. After observing two giants of the civil rights movement – Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Rep. John Lewis.

October 27, 2017 - Reverend James L. Netters speaks during the funeral for Bernal E. Smith II, President and Editor of The New Tri-State Defender, at Mt. Vernon Baptist Church.  Smith died on October 22nd at the age of 45.

After Lewis’ death that year from pancreatic cancer, Netters spoke to The Commercial Appeal about the defining moment in his life.

“I was so impressed with the march that I went back to Memphis and started marching here in Memphis and also boycotted the bus. I went to jail and successfully integrated the bus system here in Memphis,” said Netters. “It was all because of the inspiration I received during the march that Dr. Lewis helped organize in Washington.”

CONNECTED:The downtown march honors the route’s clergy 50 years ago and called for an end to the sanitation strike

Netter’s efforts to integrate buses in Memphis culminated in 1964 when he was one of seven pastors arrested after refusing to give up their seats on a section of the bus reserved for white drivers.

The arrest of Netters and six other pastors catalyzed the later integration of the bus system in Memphis. After his release from prison, Netters met with city guides who agreed to integrate public transport within two weeks.

Netters organized and took part in countless marches in Memphis. On January 1, 1968, he was sworn in as a member of the Memphis City Council, along with Fred Davis and JO Patterson Jr. The three men were the first black Memphians to serve on the city council.

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