The civil rights campaign in southwest Georgia gained national attention when Martin Luther King accepted the invitation of Albany Movement president W. G. Anderson to assist local leaders in their desegregation efforts in late 1961.
Born in Americus, Georgia, on 12 December 1927, Anderson graduated from Alabama State College (1949) and later received his DO from the University of Osteopathic Medicine and Health Sciences in Des Moines, Iowa. Anderson taught in the Atlanta public school system and at the Atlanta School of Mortuary Science before starting a private osteopathic medical practice in Albany, Georgia.
In November 1961 the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) arrived in Albany and began testing the Interstate Commerce Commission’s ban on racial segregation in interstate bus terminals. No arrests were made initially, but local leaders joined together to form the Albany Movement. Anderson was elected president of the organization, which consisted of members of SNCC, the local ministerial alliances, the Federation of Women’s Clubs, the Negro Voters League, and other groups. As the movement in Albany assumed the daunting task of desegregating all public facilities in the city, local leaders sought assistance from a more experienced civil rights group. As a long-time friend and classmate of Southern Christian Leadership Conference secretary-treasurer Ralph Abernathy, Anderson and his wife were able to persuade King to lend his leadership and support to the Albany Movement.
In July 1962 Anderson attracted national attention with his performance on the television news show Meet the Press, where he successfully defended the movement to hostile white newsmen. Anderson was standing in for King, who was imprisoned at the time for his role in the Albany demonstrations. The following year Anderson, with several other Albany leaders, was indicted on charges of conspiring to injure a juror. These charges stemmed from the 1963 picketing of an Albany grocery store owned by Carl Smith, a former juror who helped acquit a sheriff in the murder of a black man. While the Albany leaders maintained that they were picketing the store because of Smith’s failure to promote black employees, Smith believed he was picketed in retaliation for his role in the verdict. Living in Detroit, Michigan, and no longer president of the Albany Movement, Anderson was extradited to Albany for a trial in October 1963 that resulted in a mistrial. After moving to Detroit, Anderson completed his training in general surgery at the Art Center Hospital and maintained a successful group medical practice until 1984. After leaving the practice, Anderson served as associate dean of Kirksville College of Osteopathic Medicine.
Carson, In Struggle, 1981.
Jenkins, Open Dem Cells, 2000.
“Leaders Sentenced on Perjury Charge,” Student Voice, 30 December 1963.