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MFM September News - A Sampling

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Scattering Seeds in Uneven Soil

By Ron

In 1959 Miss Eddie Mae Herron, the teacher in the one-room Pocahontas Colored School in Arkansas, took her students to Memphis for a picnic in Overton Park and a visit to the Zoo. They parked near a picnic table and as they were preparing lunch, a number of Memphis Police Officers drove up with sirens blaring and invaded their picnic with waving batons, hostile yelling, and racist namecalling, ordering the frightened teachers and school children to “get back on the bus” and go home. They were told “this isn’t Colored Day in the park or the Zoo.” They returned to Pocahontas, terrified.

A couple of days later, Miss Herron called the Rev. Charles McDonald, my father, who was then a young pastor at the Methodist Church in Pocahantas and asked if she could talk with him. When they met, she told him what had happened in Memphis, adding “I try to teach my children to respect authorities and police officers, but I don’t know what to say about this.”

Rev. McDonald replied, “I don’t know what to say either, except that that was wrong. I’m sorry.” Her story left him feeling powerless but determined to seek change.

Miss Hattie Mae and Rev. Charles kept talking over the years, developing a trusting friendship. One year she asked him to preach for the Spring Baccalaureate at her school and he brought his family along, my mother Lois, my brother David, and me.

Later David connected with one of the adults who had been a child on the bus that day, Pat Findley Johnson. David and Pat have carried along the friendship that Charles and Eddie Mae began in Pocahontas in the late 50s. It was Pat who transformed the school building into a museum after it closed.

David and Pat will be visiting us on September 24 for our 9:30-10:30 AM Meeting for Learning. David will share how their friendship rose from the trauma of that dark day in Memphis and Pat will tell her eye-witness account and how she has turned trauma into a Smithsonian Museum: the “Eddie Mae Herron Center.”