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Civil rights activist visits U.S. Legal Systems class


Ernest “Rip” Patton brought Professor Ellen Podgor’s U.S. Legal Systems class to life on Sept. 17, talking with students about his experiences as a student civil rights activist during the Nashville sit-ins in 1960 and the 1961 Freedom Rides.

Ernest "Rip" Patton talks with students in U.S. Legal Systems.

Ernest “Rip” Patton talks with Stetson’s U.S. Legal Systems class.

Patton and other student activists, members of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee trained by Reverend James Lawson in Gandhi’s method of peaceful protest, risked their lives to ride interstate buses into the South to confront state laws and customs enforcing segregation. The student activists were beaten and falsely imprisoned in the Parchman Correctional Facility in Mississippi.

Professor Robert Bickel introduced Mr. Patton and provided the class with a commentary about the legal history of the Civil Rights Movement, including the constitutional decisions that enforced Brown v. Board of Education and the eventual proposal of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

Professor Bickel regularly teaches an experiential course at Stetson about constitutional law and the civil rights movement that includes a summer travel and learning experience with the original Freedom Riders, including Mr. Patton.