Wash Booker

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Washington Booker III (born 1949 in Demopolis, Marengo County; died January 20, 2016) was a Civil Rights activist, Vietnam veteran, and political organizer.

As a child Booker moved with his mother and older sister to a one-room apartment on 7th Avenue North, next door to the Zanzibar Hotel. When he was nine, they moved into the Loveman Village housing project and he began working as a delivery boy for a milkman from 4:00 to 8:00 AM six days a week.

He was expelled from Ullman High School for absenteeism. He became involved in the Civil Rights Movement as a teenager after witnessing unjust treatment of young African American demonstrators by the Birmingham Police Department. He attended demonstrations during the 1963 "Birmingham Campaign", but was not pledged to non-violence. He was among the bystanders who threw rocks and bricks at police. He was jailed for marching during the Children's Crusade.

Booker joined the U.S. Marine Corps in 1967 and served with Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Division in Vietnam until 1969. He earned a Bronze Star for his service. After returning, he completed his G.E.D. and remained with the Corps as a trainer in South Carolina, Hawaii, and California before returning home to Birmingham.

Booker became involved in political activism as a a co-founder of the militant Alabama Black Liberation Front in 1970, but the group dissolved after its leaders were arrested that September for plotting to ambush sheriff's deputies. In 1972 he joined the theater group Black Fire and later founded his own drama company, "Expressions". He also began writing poetry and completed a two-year residency as an instructor for Decatur City Schools.

In 1979 Booker worked on the mayoral campaign for Richard Arrington. He was hired on the staff of the Alabama Public Service Commission in the 1980s, but left to found his own consulting group, Booker & Booker, which worked on campaigns for Richard Shelby, Earl Hilliard, Jim Folsom Jr and Larry Langford. He later founded another consulting firm, 3I: Ideas, Information & Implementation.

In 1996 Booker became active on the Civil Rights Activist Committee, sharing his experiences growing up in Birmingham and marching with movement leaders. He has also participated in 6th Avenue Baptist Church's community development efforts in Titusville.

Booker died in January 2016 of complications from pneumonia.

References

  • Levinson, Cynthia (2012) We've Got a Job: The 1963 Birmingham Children's March. Peachtree Publishers ISBN 1561456276
  • Wright, Barnett (February 19, 2015) "What it's like to kill: Alabama Marine's real life sniper stories." The Birmingham News
  • Stein, Kelsey (January 20, 2016) "Vigil planned to honor Civil Rights foot soldier, veteran, political activist." The Birmingham News