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White civil rights activist shares his role during movement

Dr. Bob Zellner worked alongside Dr. Martin Luther King Junior, Rosa Parks, John Lewis, and many other civil rights leaders

Posted: Jan 16, 2020 5:20 PM
Updated: Jan 16, 2020 5:20 PM

To commemorate Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day, a white southerner shared his role during the Civil Rights Movement.

The commemoration program was held at the University of Alabama in Huntsville.

Dr. Bob Zellner was born and raised in rural Alabama. He is the son and grandson of Ku Kllux Klan members. Dr. Zellner said when his father left the KKK, his parents disowned him and his brothers never spoke to him again. When he attended Huntingdon College in 1957, he got involved in the Civil Rights Movement.


Dr. Zellner told WAAY 31 that he served time in jail with Dr. King and was mentored by Rosa Parks.

"When I was in college, I was given an assignment to study the racial problem in a sociology class and five of us went to interview Dr. King and went to meet Rosa Parks. We were all asked to resign from school, Huntingdon College, a Methodist school just because we broke the segregation law. We knew something bad was wrong and we had to do something to fix it and that's when I joined SNCC, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee," said Dr. Bob Zellner

Dr. Zellner shared with the audience the story of his first civil rights demonstration. He stated he was taken by a KKK mob in Mississippi and was beaten badly. He was also an organizer of The Freedom Rides of 1961 and the first white southerner to serve as field secretary for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. 

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