Groton School Quarterly, Winter 2013

Page 20

February 4, 1963

From 1963 to 1965: roger Daly’s Groton yearbook photo, and his mugshot when arrested in Alabama less than two years later

18 | Quarterly Winter 2013

atmosphere conducive to having white students. So I went into American Studies and took as many Black Studies courses as I could.” His family did not understand. “The idea that I’d go to graduate school in American Studies was unfathomable to them,” he said. “They assumed I would go to law school.” Dr. King’s Groton lecture had perhaps the most profound effect on Roger Daly ’63, a student who stood out on the football field and fives court, struggled in the classroom, and bristled when students made fun of others, when people judged without information, and when faculty seemed to misuse their authority. For someone with this fine-tuned radar for injustice, Dr. King’s lecture provided hope. “When Martin Luther King was at Groton, I heard for the first time that there was something constructive and loving to do with the hurt and the injustice you felt,” he said. “That’s what hooked me, as well as this powerful black man.” Inspired by Dr. King; his beloved black nanny, Wissy; and his mother, who always emphasized fairness and the importance of fighting for it, Roger took time off from Dartmouth to volunteer in Alabama. He went as an observer, charged with writing press releases and otherwise informing the media. “I was in a culture so alien to me, and my resources were worthless,” he said. His first beating came about two weeks after he arrived in Selma, while he was watching a voting rights demonstration from the steps of the Federal Building. Trained to follow Dr. King’s message of nonviolence, not to fight back, he curled into a ball. In court the following week, the man who beat him was convicted and offered ten days in jail or a $10 fine. “I’ll pay your fine,” said a sympathizer in the gallery. He went free, and Roger got a lecture. “Why was a fine, private school, Ivy League young man a perpetrator?” the judged asked him. “You could get hurt here.” Roger was angry; no longer satisfied to be just an observer, he joined the demonstrators. A week later, he was arrested and jailed for “resisting arrest” and “willful disobedience of a police officer” while helping with voter registration. He was arrested three more times, for “unlawful assembly” and “parading without a permit” at a protest march; for “trespassing” and “willful disobedience of a police officer” for requesting service with two blacks at Carter’s Drug Store; and the last time with Dr. King, for “parading without a permit.” His mother in New Jersey spotted him in the media twice—once on national television news, being pushed into a sheriff’s car, and another time in a New York Times’ photo, recognizable by his favorite red-and-black wool jacket. His goal as an activist was “to turn on the lights so the whole nation could see what was going on.” But about ten weeks after Roger arrived in Selma, a local high school boy, feigning interest in the movement, invited him to meet in front of the local library. It was a set-up. Three men got out of a car and beat him at gunpoint, a beating that unraveled his last knot of courage. Wracked with guilt, he grabbed his American Tourister briefcase and hopped a bus to Houston, then to Dallas and Denver, wandering in a fog until he finally headed north. He withdrew, wrote poetry, and mulled over the world’s injustices and what he learned in Selma. At Selma’s Brown Chapel Church, he had heard impassioned words from Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, and John Lewis, who tried to assuage his guilt over leaving Selma. While in Selma and afterward, Roger corresponded with Dr. Crocker—letters he still has today. He would work as a cabinetmaker and boatbuilder before finishing at Dartmouth and ultimately becoming a minister. But when he left the South, admittedly “a mess,” Dr. Crocker helped him arrange a speaking tour of New England independent schools. “I was forced to articulate what I had experienced,” he said. “I think Dr. Crocker understood me.” Roger wells up at the thought. Dr. Crocker also understood the importance of bringing black students to Groton. He understood the importance of taking boys to march with Dr. King in Boston in 1965. And he likely understood the impact a visit to the Circle would have on boys like Roger and Nason and Jamie and others. “I think we can be grateful to Providence that there is a man like him in the United States at the present time,” Dr. Crocker told the audience in the Hall on February 4, 1963. “We’re going to learn much from Dr. King.”

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