St. Olaf honors James Reeb, activist murdered in Selma 50 years ago

For 50 years, the connection between St. Olaf College, the events in Selma, and the passage of the Voting Rights Act weren't well known.

But St. Olaf is a school that likes to brag about its alumni, and today that connection was explained.

A bucolic campus in Minnesota might be a long way from a bridge in Alabama, but they're bound together by a man named James Reeb.

With Reeb's granddaugher Leah and youngest daughter Anne on hand, St. Olaf unveiled a permanent reminder of their link one day after the 50th anniversary of his death -- a memorial prominently placed in the entrance of the library.

Reeb graduated from Olaf in 1960, then moved east and became a minister. In 1965, he answered Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s call for clergy to join the voting rights marches in Selma in hopes their presence would prevent violence.

But Reverend Reeb was fatally beaten outside a Selma diner by four segregationists.

On Sunday, 17 members of the Reeb family -- including Leah, Anne, and Reeb's widow -- took part in a march in Selma, and visited the place where he was attacked.

It was Reeb's murder that really propelled voting rights legislation. But his family hopes his legacy will continue to inspire students to realize the march for equality for all is far from over.

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