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Rev. Dr. James Edward Orange
The Man…The Activist...The Leader
We decided to give you a glimpse of the man that we call husband, dad, grandfather, brother, uncle…Leader.
He began his career as an activist after attending a mass meeting with the Rev. James Bevel, in his native, Birmingham, Alabama. He became known for his singing and how he was able to inspire the young people of Birmingham to participate in the movement for social justice. As a result, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. hired him as the first field staffer for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC).
He organized and assisted in organizing marches and demonstrations throughout the South. Some of his most notable marches and demonstrations include: The March on Washington (1963); His near lynching which led to the prelude of “Bloody Sunday” and later the Voter’s Right Act of 1965; Resurrection City, and Poor People’s Campaign(1968).
He was at the bottom of the stairs at the Lorraine Motel with Rev. Andrew Young when the shots of April 4, 1968 rang out.
His commitment to the movement and the philosophy of Dr. King allowed him to take those same principles with him when he began to work for Amalgamated Clothing and Textile Workers Union in 1977. He found that the Labor Movement allowed him to use the philosophy of the Civil Rights Movement. He then went on to work with UNITE and later retired from AFL-CIO. After retiring he was able to pursue his causes and interests at leisure while living in Oakland City.
When Mrs. Coretta Scott King founded the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Non-Violent Social Change and began the celebration to commemorate Dr. King’s birthday, Dad was the person to organize the Commemorative March and also provided marshalling for all of the events. The King Week Celebrations started long before the National Holiday; and so was the birth of The March Committee.
Further, since his passion has always been voting, Dad always had his family and friends involved in various political campaigns from Atlanta to South Africa. One such campaign was the 1981 Atlanta mayor’s race when Andrew Young was elected Mayor. Dad recruited and mobilized hundreds of students from the University Center and other colleges throughout the metro area the “Blue Crew” was born.
Both the Blue Crew and the March Committee have given birth to many Chiefs of Police and Fire Department personnel, City Councilmembers, Mayors, Preachers, reformed gang bangers, activists, organizers and just better people along the way.
While on his trip to South Africa he met and became fast friends with a South African activist, S’bu Ndebele. This relationship led to introducing the Africa African American Renaissance Festival to The March Committee. We don’t have the printing capabilities to list the various other organizations that Dad is affiliated with; however the two (2) that were dear to his heart are: S.C.L.C/W. O. M. E. N, Inc., in Atlanta, Georgia and the National Voting Rights Museum in Selma Alabama.
As you read this, it is important to know that our father was a family man. In 1974 our family proudly bought our first home on Westmont Road in the Oakland City neighborhood of Southwest Atlanta. Our family still resides there and continues to keep his legacy of alive even after his sudden death in 2008. How do we want Dad to be remembered? Remember Dad by making it your civic priority to go out and vote and practicing non-violence. Dad was a drum major for Dr. Kings Six (6) Principles of Nonviolence. Remember Dad through his Humor and giant Heart. Remember our Dad as THE LEADER he was to all of us.