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Robert Graetz

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Occupation  Clergyman, activist
Education  Capital University
Name  Robert Graetz
Spouse(s)  Jean Ellis
Religion  Lutheran

Robert Graetz Martin Luther King and Robert Graetz January 14 2011

Born  May 16, 1928 (age 87) (1928-05-16) Clarksburg, West Virginia, U.S.
Alma mater  Capital University, Evangelical Lutheran Theological Seminary
Movement  African-American Civil Rights Movement
Organization  Montgomery Improvement Association

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Robert S. Graetz (born May 16, 1928) is a Lutheran clergyman who, as the white pastor of a black congregation in Montgomery, Alabama, openly supported the Montgomery bus boycott, a landmark event of the civil rights movement.


Robert Graetz Martin Luther King and Robert Graetz January 14 2011 Religion

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Role in civil rights movement

Robert Graetz wwwpbsorgwnetreligionandethicsfiles201101p

Graetz' first full-time job as pastor was to a black congregation, Trinity Lutheran Church in Montgomery. He began working there in 1955, the year of the Montgomery bus boycott. A personal friend of Rosa Parks [2], Graetz became secretary of the Montgomery Improvement Association [3], the organization founded to organize and support the boycott. Graetz' support of the movement included appearing at meetings led by Martin Luther King Jr. [4]

For his support of the boycott, Graetz and his family were ostracized by other whites and suffered several episodes of harassment, including tire slashings [5], arrest [6] and bombings. Bombs were planted at his home on three occasions; the largest did not explode. [7]

Graetz wrote A White Preacher's Memoir: The Montgomery Bus Boycott (Black Belt Press, September 1999. ISBN 1-57966-015-0) about his experiences. The book They Walked to Freedom 1955-1956: The Story of the Montgomery Bus Boycott by Kenneth M. Hare (Sports Publishing LLC, 2005. ISBN 1-59670-010-6) contains a first-person account of his experiences as well as photographs of Graetz with King and others.

Biographical details

Graetz, of German descent, was born in Clarksburg, West Virginia, and educated in Columbus, Ohio. He graduated from Capital University in Bexley, Ohio in 1950 [8], and received a B.D. in 1955 from Evangelical Lutheran Theological Seminary in Columbus, Ohio (now Trinity Lutheran Seminary [9]. He married Jean Ellis (known as Jeannie) on June 10, 1951 in East Springfield, Pennsylvania. [10].

In 2008 the Graetzes returned to Montgomery, Alabama, where they are actively involved in various civic activities including the diversity group One Montgomery and the League of Women Voters. Each year they host the annual Graetz Symposium at the National Center for the Study of Civil Rights and African-American Culture at Alabama State University.


Community Lutheran, Los Angeles, Cal. (1952–54), as an intern (student pastor)
Trinity Lutheran, Montgomery, Ala. (1955–58)
St. Philip Lutheran, Columbus, Ohio (1958–67) -– later named Pastor Emeritus
Lutheran Mission 373, Washington, D.C. (1967–70), an experimental community ministry
St. James Lutheran, Washington, D. C. (1970), interim pastor
Ohio Council of Churches, Columbus, Ohio (1970–83)
Christ the King Lutheran, Columbus, Ohio (1974)
St. John Lutheran, Logan, Ohio (1983–95), part-time ministry
Retired, October 31, 1995 -– named Pastor Emeritus
St. Matthew Lutheran, Sugar Grove, Ohio (1997–1998), interim pastor
St. John Lutheran Church, Logan, Ohio (1998), interim pastor
St. Paul Lutheran Church, Pomeroy, Ohio, and St. John Lutheran Church, Racine, Ohio, interim pastor (2001–2002)
Faith Lutheran Church, Jackson, Ohio, interim pastor (2002–2003)


Russwurm Award, National Negro Newspaper Publishers Association, 1957
Selma Humanitarian Award, from the producers and cast of the musical "Selma," about life and work of Martin Luther King Jr., 1976
Distinguished Alumnus, Trinity Lutheran Seminary, 1986
Doctor of Humanities, Capital University, 1990
Ohio Humanitarian Award, 1993, in conjunction with Martin Luther King Day celebration
(Ohio) Governor's Humanitarian Award, 1997, in conjunction with Martin Luther King Day celebration

Books and publications

A Congregational Guide to Human Relations, 1964
"An Informed Church Serves a Diverse Society," chapter in The Church in a Diverse Society, ed. L.W. Halvorson, Augsburg, 1964
Monthly columnist for Columbus, Ohio, Diocese Catholic Times (1973–87)
Montgomery - a White Preacher's Memoir, Chicago: Augsburg Fortress, 1991 (re-published as A White Preacher's Memoir: The Montgomery Bus Boycott. Black Belt Press, September 1999. ISBN 1-57966-015-0
A White Preacher's Message on Race And Reconciliation: Based on His Experiences Beginning With the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Montgomery: New South Books, 2006. ISBN 1-58838-190-0


Robert Graetz Wikipedia