Shares story

The Rotary Club of Jackson welcomed Hezekiah Watkins with the Freedom Riders to a recent meeting. He has written about the experience in his book. However, he shared part of his story with club members. In 1961, the Freedom Riders came to Jackson.  Watkins was a 13-year-old boy at Rowan Junior High and was told to avoid the situtation. Instead he and his friend were at the Masonic Temple on Lynch Street where people were being recruited to join the movement. When they heard the Freedom Riders had arrived at the Greyhound Bus Station on Lamar Street they ran down there as all 328 Freedom Riders were arrested. Choosing not to go home, they decided to play around the bus station. This resulted in his arrest on July 7, 1961. He was put in the back of a paddy wagon and sent to Parchman where he was on death row in the cell with two murderers. After five days Governor Ross Barnett had him released and sent to Jackson Police Department. When he arrived, they called his mom, who had been looking for him for five days.  Shown are (from left) Janet Scott, Rotary Club of Jackson President; Watkins; and Amanda Fontaine.

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1. He drove a blue ‘77 Chevy Nova in high school. 2. He played on Jackson Prep’s 1985 and 1986 state championship basketball teams.