Man, 92, honored for bravery in 1954 civil rights case

By Verna Gates

BIRMINGHAM, Alabama (Reuters) – In 1954, Charles Patrick set out to purchase a Boy Scout uniform for his son and instead sparked the first successful civil rights legal case in Birmingham, Alabama.

On Monday, an organization that every year marks the April 4, 1968, assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. recognized 92-year-old Patrick for his bravery.

“I am a blessed man to live to get it,” said Patrick, who traveled to Memphis, Tennessee, to receive the Open Door Award from the April 4th Foundation.

Patrick was trying to park on a crowded street in downtown Birmingham on December 11, 1954, when a white woman pulled into the spot he was waiting to take.

When he asked for an explanation, the woman told him she could take the spot because her husband was a police officer.

That night, police arrested Patrick at his home on charges of vagrancy and disorderly conduct.

The woman’s husband and another police officer pulled him from his jail cell and beat him. One kick split open his chin, leaving a scar still visible today.

Patrick, a World War II and Korean War veteran, said the officers nearly killed him.

He went public with their abuse. An extended legal effort resulted in the charges against him being dropped and the officers losing their jobs.

“My father would not let it go,” said Mignette Patrick Dorsey, who last year released a book about her father’s story.

Dorsey and Patrick’s wife of nearly 63 years , Rutha, joined him at the ceremony on Monday night.

Past honorees include former President Bill Clinton and U.S. Representative Maxine Waters of California.

(Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Greg McCune)

Man, 92, honored for bravery in 1954 civil rights case