Civil Rights Activist Mary Wesley dies; had Alabama connection
- December 12, 2002 E-mail story
Mary Hamilton Wesley, 67; Civil Rights Activist Challenged Segregation
From Staff and Wire Reports
Mary Hamilton Wesley, 67, a civil rights activist whose insistence that she
be addressed with the same respect given whites became an issue before the
U.S. Supreme Court, died Nov. 11 near Ossining, N.Y. She had battled ovarian
cancer for several years.
In the 1960s, Wesley joined the Freedom Riders, a group that tested the
South's resistance to a 1960 Supreme Court ban on segregation at bus and
A light-skinned black who refused to pass for white, Wesley was arrested on
charges of disturbing the police after a bus ride through Alabama in 1963.
During the court hearing, an attorney insisted on calling her Mary, instead
of Miss Hamilton. She said she would refuse to answer his question "until I
am addressed correctly."
The judge found her in contempt and sentenced her to five days in jail and a
Her conviction was upheld by the Alabama Supreme Court, but reversed in 1964
by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Wesley was a native of Cedar Rapids, Iowa. She was educated at Briarcliff
College and Manhattanville College, both in New York, and became an English
teacher who taught for many years in the Los Angeles area.
A.J. Wright, MLS
Associate Professor of Anesthesiology
Director, Section on the History of Anesthesia
Dept of Anesthesiology/Library
School of Medicine
University of Alabama at Birmingham
619 19th Street South, JT965
Birmingham AL 35249-6810