Clergyman; civil rights activist. Born– March 11, 1926, Hopewell Community, near Linden, in Marengo County. Parents– William L. and Louivery Bell Abernathy. Married– Juanita Odessa Williams. Children– four. Alabama State University, B.A., 1951; Atlanta University, M.A. in sociology, 1958. Served in U.S. Army WWII. Ordained to the Baptist ministry in 1948; served as pastor of several churches: Eastern Star Baptist Church, Demopolis, 1951-52; First Baptist Church, Montgomery, 1952-61; West Hunter Street Baptist, Atlanta, 1961-1990. Close friend and supporter of Martin Luther King Jr.; with King organized the Montgomery Improvement Association, which led the Montgomery Bus Boycott boycott to its successful conclusion, 1955-56. Helped found and organize the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in 1957, with King as president and Abernathy as secretary-treasurer. An associate of King in several civil rights actions; was with him when he was assassinated in Memphis in 1968. Succeeded King as president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, 1968-77; led the Poor People’s March on Washington in 1968. Conducted an unsuccessful campaign for Congress in 1978. Founded the Foundation for Economic Enterprise Development in the 1980s. In demand as a speaker on civil rights and related issues. Died April 17, 1990.
Dictionary of American Biography; obituary.
And the Walls Came Tumbling Down. New York: Harper and Row, 1989.
Garrow, David. The Walking City; The Montgomery Bus Boycott, 1955-56. Carlson, 1989.