Charles Patrick was known by many titles in his 96 years of life. Navy veteran, Army veteran, deacon, and to the Patrick family he was fittingly known as ‘the Old Goodie.’ What he wasn’t called by many is a civil rights pioneer…At least until recently, when in 2010 his story was meticulously told by his youngest daughter Mignette Patrick Dorsey in the book, Speak Truth to Power: The Story of Charles Patrick, a Civil Rights Pioneer (University of Alabama Press).
Patrick is considered one of the early pioneers in the struggle for civil rights in the South. Beaten mercilessly by two white Birmingham police officers in 1954, he was not only acquitted of false charges of disorderly conduct, but he also pursued the officers in court, winning their dismissal from the force. White and black citizens joined the white-owned press in 1954 and 1955 demanding the firing of the police officers — a first for that time. He preceded both Rosa Parks and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and is credited with unwittingly providing emerging civil rights activists a platform upon which to demand equal treatment under the law.
Charles Patrick received the “Open Door Award” from the April 4th Foundation, established to mark the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and awarded to individuals who have made unprecedented contributions in the furtherance of civil rights.
In honor of his contributions to the civil liberties of all United States citizens, Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee presented a resolution for placement in the U.S. Congressional Record. She also presented his widow, Rutha Patrick, with a Capitol flag.
“I am honored to salute Deacon Charles Patrick,” Jackson Lee said. “Let me say on behalf of an enormously grateful nation, and the President of the United States of America, that we will always know that in life’s way, an earthly way-maker by the name of Deacon Charles Patrick walked this earth.”
“We always looked up to our father, as much for his stand against injustice as for his military service to our country,” author Mignette Patrick Dorsey said. “This strange mixture of grief and gratitude will take some getting used to.”
Patrick leaves behind his wife of 68 years, Rutha Patrick, nine living children, 66 grandchildren, 49 Great-grandchildren, three Great-great-grandchildren, and a host of other relatives and friends.
For more information about the life of Charles Patrick, and the book “Speak Truth to Power” visit http://www.speaktruth2power.com/.
Watch video on the civil rights struggle of Charles Patrick: