Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Hometown History

This is from Jim Ridings newest book on Kankakee.
John B. Williams lived at 747 N. Evergreen Avenue.
On the morning of Feb. 25, 1943, he got on a Kankakee bus
that took workers to the arsenal at Elwood. He sat several
rows in front of other black men on the bus. The bus driver,

Curtis Norton, told Williams to sit in the back of the bus with
the other "colored" men. William refused. An argument began.
Norton called Kankakee police, and officers Jay
Cahan and Joseph Mathews took Williams from the bus to the
city hall for a hearing on the complaint.
In a brave act of protest, six other black men on the
bus got off with Williams and went with him to city hall. It was
an unusual act of defiance for the time.
Those men were Andy Franks, 952 E. Mulberry
Street; Willie Jackson, 733 N. Wildwood Avenue; R.J. Smith,
693 N. Wildwood Avenue; Sangster Theophilus, 694 N.
Evergreen Avenue; George Freeman, 747 N. Evergreen
Avenue; and James M. Morgan, 894 N. Evergreen Avenue.
Police Magistrate Edward Hoennicke dismissed the
case against Williams, saying that the bus driver had no right
to order Williams to change seats.
But Hoennicke chastised the others for coming along
with Williams, saying they wasted hours that should have been
used in producing material for the war effort.

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