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I am always sad when heroes turn out to be clay puppets.

Behold Reverend James L. Bevel.

From the Enclycopaedia of World’s Biography:

Bevel was certainly one of the most influential, though least known, civil rights activists. Martin Luther King, Jr., would not have achieved many of his successes had it not been for men and women like James and Diane Bevel. As one of King’s most effective front-men and as a dedicated worker who believed in direct-action, Bevel was a dynamic symbol of the new generation of leaders which included Andrew Young, Jesse Jackson, C.T. Vivian, Hosea Williams, and many others of both local and national prominence. Although not as well-known as some of these, Bevel’s civil rights record did not go unnoticed. In 1963 he received the Peace Award from the War Resisters League and in 1965 was awarded the prestigious Rosa Parks Award by the SCLC.

(There is also a wikipedia article on him, of course)

But what became of this righteous fighter for the rights of the disenfranchised?

That forty something years later he is convicted of molesting and raping his teen daughter, with four other of his children alleging more sexual abuse.

Does his sexual deviance negate the greatness of his contribution to equality for blacks? Does it negate the fact that he risked his life simply by associating with Dr. King?—let alone the protests that he organized, or participated in, on his own?

It doesn’t, no, not in my eyes. His actions, as well as those of the others who were involved at the time, during the fight for equal civil rights in the United States have affected the lives of generations since. The lives of my children, who belong to an ethnic minority, are different than they would have been without Dr Bevel, Dr. King and so many others.

And yet I can’t help but hurt for those innocent girls.

I can’t help but wonder, how many more children he may have tainted, traumatized, scarred, through his life?


It’s never a good idea to put anyone upon a pedestal. More often than not, their feet turn out to be clay.


  • That’s why I generally don’t put people on pedestals. They too often fall.

    I can admire and respect, but actually putting them up on any sort of pedestal, I hold myself back.

    I hurt for his kids and any other victims he may have left in his wake.

    There’s obviously something broken inside him-makes me wonder, how much more could he have accomplished if he’d been whole?


  • Robin
    October 17
    4:58 pm

    Have you ever thought about the pedestal metaphor? You put someone on a pedestal, but in order for them to be able to stay there, they have to either be a) heavy enough to be weighed down to the base, or b) have their feet cemented there. In other words, it’s a metaphor that contains its own contradiction. So how can idols not be doomed to having feet of clay when the metaphor used to describe them is similarly doomed?


  • Anon76
    October 17
    10:47 pm

    This says it all for me: (from the link provided)

    “That didn’t happen. Instead, Bevel mocked the notion of an apology.

    “Saying ‘I’m sorry’ is a game we play. That’s a playboy talking to a prostitute,” Bevel said on the witness stand shortly before he was sentenced.

    Bevel then launched into an extended explanation of his philosophy, which includes applying the teachings of the New Testament to the “science of constitutionality.” During his trial, testimony indicated that Bevel considered it parents’ duty to “sexually orient” their children.”

    I’m so very sorry, but the minute I find out someone of “great character” has no character at all, I’m done. If these things would have come to light during that volatile period in time, it would have caused extensive damage and set back the movement for years.

    JFK’s affairs are nothing compared to this revelation.

    I ache for his daughters and anyone else he felt “worthy” of his touch.


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