U.S. Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) recently presented a congressional resolution that honors University of Mary Washington President Richard V. Hurley. The resolution congratulates Hurley on his inauguration as UMW’s ninth president and recognizes UMW for its 2011 commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Freedom Rides. Lewis, one of the 13 original Freedom Riders, gave the undergraduate commencement address at UMW in May.
In the resolution, Lewis reflects on UMW’s ties to the Freedom Riders of the 1960s:
Like any leader, he has encountered many challenges. But President Hurley understands that what compelled a diverse group of Americans in 1961 to board southward-bound buses for Civil Rights is the same calling that can inspire minds and change hearts today. I saw that for myself this year when he embraced the history of his institution and one of its distinguished faculty, my friend and fellow Freedom Rider, James Farmer. President Hurley led one of the country’s most impressive Freedom Ride programs in the country. From reunions of fellow Freedom Riders and featured scholars, to breathtaking exhibits including a bus from that era, Rick Hurley took one of the most dynamic moments of our past to say to his faculty and students, “Look at what we can become together. Look at what we can do.” I saw many of these things first hand when I visited the campus this past May as I served as its commencement speaker, and I came away truly impressed with what I saw.
UMW’s commemoration paid tribute to the Freedom Rides, led by civil rights pioneer and UMW professor James Farmer. The semester-long celebration featured appearances by former Freedom Riders, lectures by academic scholars and exhibits of historical photos, including a dramatic display on a 1960s-era bus, reminiscent of those ridden by Freedom Riders who challenged the South’s segregation of bus transportation.
In addition, the university hosted a limited-release of the PBS American Experience film “The Freedom Riders.” The observance culminated with commencement addresses by Lewis and fellow Freedom Rider Rep. Bob Filner (D-Ca.) in May.