Rev. H.C. Boyd delivered the keynote address at a King Day convocation at Albany State University Thursday. Boyd related his experiences of racial discrimination from his youth and also from the 1960s the 1960s when he open Shiloh Baptist Church to meeting of civil rights protesters. (Staff Photo: Jim West)
ALBANY — A prominent icon of the civil rights movement in Albany was the keynote speaker Thursday at a Martin Luther King Jr. Day convocation at Albany State University.
Rev. H.C. Boyd, who became pastor of Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church on Whitney Avenue in 1959, opened the church to meetings held by non-violent protesters of racial discrimination through much of the 1960s.
Boyd began his talk with personal experiences of racial inequities while serving in the U.S. Army in 1946 and later.
Boyd “got the calling” in the later part of his military service, he said, and preached his early sermons on the Hawaiian islands where he was stationed. Boyd went on to receive college and seminary training at Morehouse College in Atlanta, and later to minister at Shiloh in Albany. Boyd said none of the previous ministers had remained long at the church — one of them for only eight months, with Boyd’s predecessor staying just two years.
“Well I was figuring I’d just put in my two years and be going on,” Boyd said, “But I got to Shiloh and drank some of that Dougherty County water. That was in 1959. Here it is 2014 and I’m still here drinking that Dougherty County water.”
Boyd said when the civil rights movement gained steam in Albany, the protesters needed a place to have their meetings, and Boyd was willing to provide it in Shiloh Baptist, he said.
“The lien holders (of the church) said ‘if you let movement come to your church we’ll foreclose and put you out of business,’” Boyd said. “I took a chance and told (those in the movement) come on to Shiloh, and they came to Shiloh.”
According to Boyd, when the protesters began to march, jails filled up in Albany, Leesburg, Sylvester and Camilla.
“Dr. King came and he went to jail, also,” Boyd said. “The desire was to get an audience at the conference table to talk on freedom. I know some of you have heard (the movement) was a failure, but it wasn’t. Today you have not only black tellers, but black bank presidents, You’ve had two black mayors. Dr. King said that if you stand straight, they can’t ride your back.”
As a part of his closing out the program, Dr. Arthur Dunning, interim ASU president, addressed the students in attendance.
“When people say this is a holiday for African Americans you should tell them nonsense,” he said. “It’s a holiday for all human beings who treasure right.”