James Orange

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James Edward Orange Jr (born October 29, 1942 in Birmingham; died February 16, 2008 in Atlanta, Georgia) was an important figure in the Civil Rights movement, joining Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr in the Birmingham campaign as well as in Selma and on the Poor People's Campaign.

Orange grew up in Birmingham, the third of seven children born to an ACIPCO worker. He graduated from Parker High School in 1961 and, a year later, found himself a part of the movement when he mistakenly sat in a front-row pew when he attended a mass meeting at 16th Street Baptist Church in order to meet a girl for a date.

He accepted the challenge laid out by Ralph Abernathy, Edward Gardner and James Bevel at the meeting and took charge of a group of eight volunteers charged with picketing a store which didn't serve Black customers. His subsequent arrest was the first of more than 100 detentions stemming from acts of protest and civil disobedience on Orange's part.

It was while protesting Orange's incarceration in Marion in 1965 that Jimmie Lee Jackson was killed by an Alabama State Trooper, triggering the Selma to Montgomery March which energized the drive toward passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Orange became a full-time organizer for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and remained with the SCLC until 1977 when he began working for the Amalgamated Clothing and Textile Workers Union. From there he became involved with the national AFL-CIO. Until his retirement in 2005, Orange remained active in campaigning for civil rights and labor issues in the South as well as with the African National Congress in South Africa and with the International Olympic Committee. He also coordinated annual observances of Martin Luther King, Jr Day in Atlanta, first through the King Center, and later through his own M.L. King Jr. March Committee and Africa/African American Renaissance Committee.

Orange died of complications from gall bladder surgery in February 2008 at Crawford Long Hospital in Atlanta. He was survived by his wife, Cleo; four children and two grandchildren. Orange was buried at Atlanta's Greenwood Cemetery.


  • Markiewicz, David (February 16, 2008) "The Rev. James Orange, civil rights activist, dies at 65." Atlanta Journal-Constitution
  • Cardinale, Matthew (February 17, 2008) "Activist, Rev. James Orange, 1943-2008." Atlanta Progressive News
  • Gaboury, Fred (February 18, 2008) Remembering the Rev. James Orange." People's Weekly World Newspaper - including interview from 2000.

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