From Morgantown to San Francisco

An excerpt from Morgantown to San Francisco, a memoir I am working on. My most recent book, Damn Yankee Buttons, is available on

The Selma march was triggered by the Alabama state police murder of Jimmy Lee Jackson. Twenty-six-year-old Jackson had recently died in a Selma hospital of wound infection after being shot in the abdomen by a state cop.

Martin Luther King, Jr. led a subsequent march that crossed the bridge out of Selma. He invited ministers and others sympathetic to the civil rights movement to join him. 500 Unitarian-Universalist ministers answered the call. One was murdered.

My Peace Corps friend, Al Ulmer, drove one of those ministers, Unitarian-Universalist James Reeb, from Atlanta to Selma. That evening, Reeb and Clark Olsen and Orloff Miller, two other Unitarian-Universalist ministers, were attacked by white racists on a Selma sidewalk. Reeb was killed with a baseball bat to his head. An all-white, all-male Alabama jury found the three men innocent who killed Reeb.

James Reeb lived for a short time and in that time the attackers continued their terror.

About Sam's Branch

I joined the Peace Corps in 1961 as West Virginia’s first volunteer. Go to to order my book Imagonna: Peace Corps Memories. I am the eighth generation of my family born in the Big Coal River Valley of West Virginia. My father and grandfather were underground coal miners. I have a chemical engineering degree from West Virginia University (WVU). After training to make sidewinder missiles, I joined the Peace Corps and taught chemistry and coached the track team at a secondary school in Nigeria. Since that time, I was WVU’s first full time foreign student advisor and worked in urban outreach, organic farming, construction labor, and high school teaching. I recently retired from the board of directors of the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy (, and recently retired from the board of directors of the West Virginia Kanawha State Forest Foundation ( I am still on the board of the Labor History Association and the West Virginia Environmental Education Association and recently joined the board of the West Virginia Civil Liberties Union. I am active in the campaign to stop the destructive practice of mountain top removal strip mining in the Appalachian Mountains. You may contact me at or my blog samsbranch.wordpress.
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