St. Paul’s to remember Daniels

Published 9:32 pm Wednesday, August 12, 2015

By Henry Luzzatto


St. Paul’s Episcopal Church will remember the life of Jonathan Daniels on the 50th anniversary of his death at their services on Sunday, Aug. 16.

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Jonathan Daniels was a young man who was killed participating in the civil rights marches in Alabama in 1965.

Though Daniels’ story is not well known, he is an important figure in civil rights history, according to the Rev. Dr. Keith Emerson, the rector of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church.

In 1965, Daniels, who graduated from Virginia Military Institute, answered Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s request for seminary students to volunteer for the voting rights march from Selma to Montgomery, Ala. Daniels and 28 others were arrested during the march.

After being released from jail six days later, Daniels and three others were trying to enter a store when a deputy sheriff brandished a shotgun them. When the deputy fired his weapon, Daniels pushed Ruby Sales, a 17-year-old African-American girl, out of the way. Daniels was shot instead and died instantly.

Emerson will honor Daniels’s sacrifice in St. Paul’s services on Sunday.

“I think that remembering this story from the past should give guidance to people today,” he said.

The Episcopal Church began celebrating Daniels’ life in 1991, and he is recognized as a modern martyr by the Anglican Communion, Emerson said. According to Emerson, the only other American with that honor is Martin Luther King Jr.

“The story is important to the Episcopal church because he was in seminary,” Emerson said. “It’s important to Virginia because of his time at VMI. And it’s important for everybody, because it tells a story about a part of our history that’s really only 50 years old.”

Emerson said the services on Sunday will take a look back to 1965 to see where St. Paul’s and the nation were at the time.

“I don’t think that many people at St. Paul’s know the story,” Emerson said.

Emerson said that even though the country has changed in the 50 years since Daniels’ death, his story is still relevant now, as the country faces racial tensions.

The services celebrating Jonathan Daniels will be held at 8 a.m. and 10 a.m. at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, 213 N. Main St.