William G. McAtee, Lexington, Kentucky, is a retired Presbyterian minister. In the late 1950s and 1960s, he served two pastorates in Mississippi, Amory and Columbia. For twenty-six years, he was an executive for Transylvania Presbytery in Lexington, retiring in 1997. He taught as an adjunct faculty member at Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary, McCormick Presbyterian Seminary, and Lexington Theological Seminary.
About the book: What began in May 1964 as the routine beginning of a new pastorate at the Columbia Presbyterian Church soon turned into a life-changing experience for Bill McAtee, a fourth generation Mississippian and son of a Presbyterian minister.
This story revolves around the quiet leadership of Earl D. "Buddy" McLean, who became Mayor of Columbia, determined that his community not undergo the violence and reckless defiance of the law that engulfed so many other Mississippi communities. McAtee joined a group of local ministers, two white and four black, to assist the Mayor in navigating the uncharted social and political waters in a series of "firsts" that began opening access to public institutions and facilities for all citizens as required by the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
Civil Rights Workers, providing constructive creative tension, took to the streets on behalf of the poorest of the poor demanding what rightly belonged to them according to the law.
In retrospect, McAtee's engagement in these events during this intense period (1964-1966) became a turning point in repudiating his past silent acquiescence to the injustices of the racist society of his birth. His accounting of this personal transformation reflects how his values and behavior were shaped.
This story is a candid reminder that no generation can summarily ignore individual and institutional deceits of the past or rest comfortably on its progress toward tolerance, equality, and justice.