1961 Freedom Rider keynotes MLK holiday luncheon

Jan 19, 2015

Henry Thomas was a Freedom Rider in 1961. He's the keynote speaker at today's luncheon in Lansing marking the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.
Credit Kevin Lavery/WKAR

We remember the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. today. Cities across America are holding various events, including in Lansing. In 2015, the day seems to resonate with even greater impact than usual, following a tumultuous year of unrest. We've seen events like the deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, Eric Garner in New York and Tamar Rice in Cleveland. You could feel the echoes of the 1960’s, when protests and violence were much more widespread.

Today, the Greater Lansing Area Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday Commission welcomes a civil rights icon as its keynote speaker. Henry Thomas was 19 years old in 1961 when he rode a bus through the South as one of 13 original “Freedom Riders” who protested segregation. He was severely beaten when the bus stopped in Anniston, Alabama.

Current State's Kevin Lavery met Thomas last night at a reception in his honor.