I first met John in 1980, when the National Consumer Cooperative Bank (NCCB) worked with him to spread the word of co-operatives to Black leaders and communities. I was tasked with arranging John’s meetings throughout the USA and traveling with him throughout California. He was soft-spoken, a good listener and uniquely humble in everything he did. It was a wonderful, memorable journey.
The last time I saw John was on 5 May 2010. I was being inducted into the Cooperative Hall of Fame that night and our daughter Hatley was going to Birmingham Southern College in Birmingham, Alabama, that fall. I thought we’d have about 10-15 minutes with John, but he gave us over an hour, speaking about the South and his life working with co-operatives, sharing some of his stories about the Federation of Southern Cooperatives. He told us the soul-stirring story of personally forgiving the white police officer who bludgeoned him on the Edmund Pettus Bridge. The officer was dying of cancer and wanted to apologise for his actions and to be forgiven. John and the former officer had talked and then prayed together in the same room that we were in. Part of his funeral procession included transporting his casket across that same bridge.