For immediate release
July 17, 2015
EPISCOPAL CHURCHES REMEMBER CIVIL RIGHTS MARTYR
“One of the most heroic Christian deeds of which I have heard in my entire ministry,” said the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., “was performed by Jonathan Daniels.”
Fifty years ago this August 20, Daniels, a young Episcopal seminarian, was murdered in Hayneville, Ala., while participating in the civil rights movement. The Episcopal Diocese of Virginia will remember and reflect on this remarkable man on Sunday, August 16 — the Sunday nearest the anniversary of his death.
“Jonathan Daniels is one of my personal heroes,” said the Rt. Rev. Shannon S. Johnston, Bishop of Virginia, who began his ordained ministry in Selma.
Daniels was preparing for his own ordained ministry at Episcopal Theological School (now Episcopal Divinity School) in Cambridge, Mass., when in March 1965 he answered Dr. King’s call for student and clergy volunteers to join the voting rights march from Selma to Montgomery. Daniels returned to Alabama that July to help register new voters in the African American community.
After a demonstration in Fort Deposit, he and 28 others were arrested and taken to jail in Hayneville. Six days later, they were released. As one of their group called to get transportation, Daniels and three others walked toward a small store to buy a cold drink. Approaching the door, he saw a shotgun being raised at them. He pushed aside Ruby Sales, a 17-year-old African American woman, just as the gun fired. Daniels died instantly. The gunman then shot a Roman Catholic priest, Douglas Morrisroe, wounding him severely.
The gunman was later acquitted of manslaughter by an all-white jury.
In 1991, The Episcopal Church added Daniels to its yearly cycle of commemorations, setting August 14 as the annual date. Canterbury Cathedral in England, the “mother church” of the Anglican Communion, honors him in its “Chapel of Modern Martyrs,” along with only one other American: Martin Luther King Jr.
Daniels, a native of New Hampshire, had a special connection with Virginia as he attended the Virginia Military Institute in Lexington, graduating as the valedictorian of the class of 1961.
Bishops of the three dioceses in Virginia-the Rt. Rev. Shannon S. Johnston of the Diocese of Virginia, the Rt. Rev. Herman Hollerith IV of Southern Virginia, and the Rt. Rev. Mark Bourlakas of Southwestern Virginia-have each authorized clergy and congregations to use the lessons appointed for the Daniels commemoration on one of the Sundays closest to the anniversary of his death.
+Shannon’s letter to clergy is here.