Augustans recall 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom

Thursday, Aug 22, 2013 5:04 PM
Last updated Friday, Aug 23, 2013 10:49 AM
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John Gilchrist was just a teenager in 1963, working at Bryant’s Auto Service Center to save money for college. He had a hard job but rode a night train to the nation’s capital so others might have an equal chance for one, too.

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John Gilchrist, who attended the 1963 March on Washington, holds a photograph of himself with people from the Augusta chapter of the NAACP and others after returning by train from Washington.   JON-MICHAEL SULLIVAN/STAFF
JON-MICHAEL SULLIVAN/STAFF
John Gilchrist, who attended the 1963 March on Washington, holds a photograph of himself with people from the Augusta chapter of the NAACP and others after returning by train from Washington.

Now 68 and a grandfather, Gilchrist will mark the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom from his home in Augusta knowing that his participation a half-century ago helped open doors for equal rights and social justice.

“I had a job, but there were many that didn’t have a job,” Gilchrist said. “I participated simply because lots of things took place during that time.”

Several days of events will commemorate the historic event. On Saturday, a march tracing the route is expected to draw at least 150,000 people. A second, smaller march will be held on the anniversary itself, Aug. 28.

Elias Burton Jr., of Augusta, rode the train to Washington because he wanted racial discrimination to end. He sat in the back of the school bus, drank from separate water fountains from whites and swam at a segregated pool.

“I was wondering was this ever going to end,” Burton said. “You just couldn’t go certain places. You couldn’t do certain things.”

The struggle for equal work continued after the march, Burton said. When he began working for a Georgia agency in the early 1970s, he was the first black hired in the department.

Burton wasn’t promoted equally, he said, until the federal government uncovered the unequal treatment. He retired from the agency, which he declined to specify, in 2004.

“I was qualified for the job. That’s why I was hired,” Burton said. “It started out to be a struggle, but then things progressed.”

Gilchrist, a 1963 graduate of Lucy C. Laney High School, began working at age 6. Wages from working in an ice house, a grocery store and later Bryant’s at the corner of 10th Street and Gwinnett Street (now Laney-Walker Boulevard) helped the family income, he said.

Leading up to the 1963 march, Gilchrist remembers Augusta sit-ins at lunch counters at the S.H. Kress and H.L. Green stores and at neighborhood curb markets.

When Thankful Baptist Church offered to pay for his train ticket to the march, Gilchrist stopped pumping gas, washing cars and changing oil for two days.

A group of at least 20 people from Augusta boarded a train to Florence, S.C. where the car latched onto a “freedom train” traveling from Miami to D.C.

Near the base of the Lincoln Memorial, Gilchrist stood a half-football field away from the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., who spoke to a crowd of more than 200,000 people that had descended on the National Mall.

Gilchrist graduated from Fort Valley State College with a degree in business administration in 1968. He worked at Bryant’s auto shop until 1983, then taught at Augusta Technical College for nearly 25 years before retiring.

He measures the progress that has been made since an era when segregation was legal in much of the country by the successes of his children, but said there is still much work ahead. His son and daughter graduated from college and now work in public schools teaching the next generation, which will continue the fight for justice.

“Change is going to take place with or without us,” Gilchrist said. “You want to be part of it so change can be better and more successful for all human beings.”

COMING SATURDAY

A bus organized by the Augusta branch of the NAACP leaves Augusta for Washington, D.C., tonight to participate in events marking the 50th anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington.

Comments (8) Add comment
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Bodhisattva
5878
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Bodhisattva 08/23/13 - 03:44 am
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Real heroes in the fight for

Real heroes in the fight for justice. Thank you for standing up and helping to make this a better country.

nocnoc
40514
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nocnoc 08/23/13 - 07:29 am
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I have to agree with

Bodhisattva on his above 3:44am comment.

Since these are the people that fought the fight they have a prospective of the 1950's-2010's.As a reporter I would have asked other questions like:

How do you compare the Civil Rights leaders of 1960's to modern day Civil Rights advocates?

Have you seen improvement in race relations in the last 50 years?

What is keeping the Black population from excelling, is it jobs, education, politics, drugs,crime sigma, or these plus others things?

What still needs to be done?

Like I said these are the actual people that fought the fight, they have a prospective of the 1950's-2010's.

t3bledsoe
14250
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t3bledsoe 08/23/13 - 08:15 am
0
4
Quote from article

"He measures the progress that has been made since an era when segregation was legal in much of the country by the successes of his children, but said there is still much work ahead"

Much work to be done as less profiling, less guns on the street, MUCH LESS inter-racial predgudist, and much more QUALITY education !

seenitB4
84424
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seenitB4 08/23/13 - 08:33 am
3
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A nice article

Now the march needs to happen in your own back yards....the freedoms have been flowing but the responsibilty of parenting has not....
I appreciate your kindness in your letter.....maybe that intelligence can spread to the younger generation ...they are taking so much for granite & it was so hard to achieve....they are standing on your shoulders but are not looking in the right direction..imho

Pops
7582
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Pops 08/23/13 - 09:52 am
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Yeah man......

“Change is going to take place with or without us,” Gilchrist said. “You want to be part of it so change can be better and more successful for all human beings.”

Things are so much better these days.............

my.voice
4702
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my.voice 08/23/13 - 11:20 am
1
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I appreciate your taking part

I appreciate your taking part in this Mr Gilchrist. Wish we had more people of your character today in our world.

whitelinc
4
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whitelinc 08/23/13 - 12:04 pm
2
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Touched

I had the pleasure of being taught by Mr.Gilchrist at Augusta Technical College in the mid-90's once he became department chair. I am a mid 30's white male and would like to point out that I saw this man take students from all different social and economic backgrounds and treat him as he would his own children. I even had the pleasure to rebuild the engine in his daily driver while attending the school. That's a pretty tough test to pass. Thanks MR.G.......

chascushman
6653
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chascushman 08/23/13 - 02:59 pm
2
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"Much work to be done as less
Unpublished

"Much work to be done as less profiling, less guns on the street, MUCH LESS inter-racial predgudist, and much more QUALITY education !"
Bledsoe, there will be "less profiling' when young black men stop committing the majority of the crimes. If want "MUCH LESS inter-racial predgudist" talk to the race baiters and the black leaders that spread racism like the racist in the WH. QUALITY education is available if a person wants it. The education problem starts at the homes. Teachers can't teach because the kids are not taught to behave. The Great Society, liberals, democrats and black leaders have done great harm to black people.
Take a good look at who have the "guns on the street".

Darby
24814
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Darby 08/23/13 - 03:37 pm
3
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"less guns on the street,"

Right bledsoe, and when you can come up with a way to do that, short of full blown martial law, you be sure and let us know.

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