Bus commemorates 60 years of the Birmingham Civil Rights Movement

A custom-designed, Birmingham Civil Rights-branded motorcoach is traveling the country, serving as a nationwide commemoration of the 60th anniversary of the Birmingham Civil Rights Campaign and encouraging people around the United States to visit Birmingham. 

The bus is part of the fleet of Georgia Coach Lines, which is owned by Clarence and Wendy Cox, of Fayetteville, Georgia. Clarence serves on the United Motorcoach Association’s Board of Directors and is the founding chairman of the American Bus Association’s African American Motorcoach Council.

Being selected for the campaign is particularly meaningful for the couple because of their involvement with Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, where Martin Luther King Jr. was ordained as a minister and served as pastor

“We have a sense of gratitude because they selected us, and we’re excited to see the response. I want to make sure that when we have groups going to Birmingham, or Alabama in general, that they are on this bus,” said Wendy, explaining that there are often tours between Georgia and Alabama. 

Commemorating events of 1963

She added that it was emotional watching the wrap, designed by the Greater Birmingham Convention & Visitors Bureau, installed by Budget Truck and Auto at the company’s garage. The new bus unveiled at Birmingham’s 16th Street Baptist Church marks the launch of a campaign marking the events of 1963, when a cultural revolution took place in the streets of Birmingham, Alabama. 

These events – King’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail” (April 1963), the Children’s Crusade (May 1963), and the bombing of 16th Street Baptist Church that killed four young girls (September 1963) – led to a turning point in the status of race relations in the United States.  

“Visitors from all over the globe travel to Birmingham to learn and reflect on what happened here in 1963,” said John Oros, president & CEO of the Greater Birmingham Convention & Visitors Bureau. “Today,  and every day, we must continue to remember those who participated in changing our history and honor how they changed the lives of so many future generations by giving them the priceless gift of hope. This campaign is an opportunity to share that message across the country.” 

The 45-foot, 56-passenger motorcoach will transport tour groups around the country through the end of the year, serving as a nationwide commemoration of the events of 1963 and encouraging people around the United States to visit Birmingham. 

“As this bus travels throughout the United States, we hope that it will remind some and inform others about what happened in Birmingham – because we know that what happened here did indeed change the world,” said Denise Gilmore, senior director of the Division of Social Justice and Racial Equity for the city of Birmingham. “So, as we commemorate 1963, let us recommit to forging justice in 2023.”  

The Rev. Arthur Price, pastor of 16th Street Baptist Church, added, “As we reflect on the 60th anniversary of the Civil Rights Movement and unveil this bus that will go around the nation, I hope that it serves as a reminder that here in Birmingham, we are continuing to teach lessons, we are continuing to touch lives, and we will continue to transform the world.” 

Original ‘foot soldiers’ in attendance

Foot soldiers from the Birmingham Civil Rights Movement also were at the unveiling,  representing those who marched 60 years ago.  

“60 years ago, more than 1,000 African American students led this church to march into downtown Birmingham. These brave foot soldiers heard the call from the Rev. Fred Shuttleworth, Dr. Martin Luther King and SCLC organizer James Bevel and marched for the right to live in a desegregated city,” said Paulete Roby, chairwoman of the Birmingham Civil Rights Activist Committee and participant in the 1963 Children’s Campaign. “The Birmingham Civil Rights Activist Committee, home of the foot soldiers, joins with you in recognizing this momentous occasion – 60 years of the Birmingham Civil Rights Movement.”  

The new motorcoach is part of a larger campaign by the Greater Birmingham Convention & Visitors Bureau to honor the history, progress and impact of the events of 1963 and the Civil Rights Movement. The campaign will run through the year, encouraging visitors from around the world to travel to Birmingham and experience the city’s Civil Rights history. In addition to the bus, campaign initiatives will include a microsite, custom Civil Rights-themed visitor itineraries, special events in partnership with community partners, and more.  

Each year, more than 100,000 visitors from around the world visit the Birmingham Civil Rights District, designated a National Monument by President Barack Obama. The district’s key landmarks, which tell the stories of the city’s pivotal role in desegregating the American South, include the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, 16th Street Baptist Church, Kelly Ingram Park, A.G. Gaston Motel, Historic Bethel Baptist Church, the Fourth Avenue Historic District and the Colored Masonic Temple.  

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