It’s the Little Crumbs that Pique my Interest

In a recent post, I shared my interest in the Civil Rights Summit held at the LBJ Library in Austin, Texas, April 8-10, 2014. Curious to see if I could uncover any family stories related to the Civil Rights movement, I sent out a mass email. I received only one response – from Dee Webber McLean stating that her father, Fred M. Webber, participated in the 1963 March on Washington. (Fred M. Webber was my Grandmother Abbie’s brother.) I sent a quick reply with a list of questions, but Dee didn’t have any additional information and suggested I contact her sister Bea.

I received this reply from cousin Bea in response to my queries:

I can’t tell you very much. I was 20 and ignored half of what was said at the dinner table. See below in red.

How did he make the decision to attend? No idea. He was involved in civil rights in Baltimore (and I am sure well before Baltimore), so I am sure it was a no brainer for him.

> Did he speak about civil rights from the pulpit? As Dee told you, he did not have a church at the time, though he did substitute at churches all over the Presbytery, preaching most Sundays. I would say he probably did. (At the time he was living in Baltimore serving as the General Presbyter, an executive, so he didn’t have a church.)

> I don’t know your family history well enough – was the family in New York at the time? At what church was he pastor? See above.

> How did he travel to D.C.? Did he go with a group? I would suspect it was with a group and probably by bus.

> What did he say about the experience? Sorry, I have no memories.

> Are there any photos or other memorabilia from the march? Not sure, but will keep an eye out when and if I am in family stuff. See Xmas letter attached; that’s actually how I know he was there.

> Was there any push back from the community because of his participation? Again, as he was not the pastor of a church, he did not have a local community, but rather the entire Presbytery of Baltimore and I am sure there were many who disapproved.

I do know he was very involved in the ecumenical movement, and participated in the council of churches or whatever its name was. I am sure this is something he did throughout his entire ministry. I do recall there were some meetings at our house in Catonsville attended by some Black clergy and a Catholic priest, Father Joe Connolly, I think was his name. In the Fred M. Webber historical document attached, keep scrolling through it and you will see some stuff from when he went to Rome representing the United Presbyterian Church of the USA and the Protestant Churches of America at the elevation of Archbishop Sheehan to Cardinal. This was, I know, one of the highlights of Daddy’s life and service in  ministry. I’ve attached some other stuff that I happen to have in my computer. I also have a booklet of memories about Daddy that the family presented to Mother in 1995. If you’d like it, let me know.

Of course, I said I would like to receive the booklet of memories!

And here is that one sentence from Carol and Fred Webber’s 1963 Christmas letter that tells family and friends that Fred participated in the March on Washington:


Some tasty crumbs to follow!

If you would like to read more about Fred M. Webber, click the Fred Myron Webber tag/link at the bottom of this post.

I’ve mentioned before that I am still suffering the effects of “chemo brain” – affecting my abilities to plan and organize and follow through. I’ve followed the trail of some of the crumbs above and I am excited to share them. Normally, I would be coming up with a plan on how to weave what I found into some kind of narrative. It just isn’t happening. So – although I probably won’t be entirely pleased with the results, I’m just going to dive in and do my best with what I have. Maybe something simple… like chronological order? If I keep challenging this brain, maybe it will overcome the effects of those toxic drugs more quickly. Bye-bye, perfectionism!

BTW, a friend sent me an interesting article about chemo brain last week. I knew some of the information, but was not aware of the link between chemo brain and a family history of Alzheimer’s (I’ve got that) nor the association with also having peripheral neuropathy (yup – I’ve got that too. Fortunately not as bad as some people get from chemotherapy.).

The Civil Rights Summit and a Family Story?

On April 8-10, 2014, the LBJ Presidential Library on the University of Texas campus hosted a Civil Rights Summit to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Unable to attend, but living right here, I watched as much of the live stream coverage as I could. President Obama, and three of our four living former presidents (all but George H. W. Bush) were speakers at the summit.

My very favorite panel/speaker was the interview with former President Jimmy Carter. The emotional story behind the Camp David accord alone is worth watching the nearly hour-long interview. I have such respect for President Carter’s continuing work after his “retirement.” He is sharp as a tack and working relentlessly for women world wide as well as his many other projects. (A little music by Graham Nash precedes the interview.)

I was also intrigued by the panel “Heroes of the Civil Rights Movement” – with Julian Bond, Andrew Young, and Representative John Lewis. Missing from the panel, however, were any female heroes of the Civil Rights Movement. Well – they did bring it up and gave a nice pat response about how great so many women were …. but, you know, it seems that some of the story is missing. I did enjoy the discussion and insights and stories told and would encourage you to watch their panel. I think you can find pretty much everything from the summit on youtube.

Our local PBS affiliate is airing some programs they put together to coincide with the summit and the anniversary of the Civil Rights Act. I watched one the evening of April 24th and was pleasantly surprised that the local production did not give short shrift to the women in Austin who played significant roles in the Civil Rights movement here. I have two new heroines: Bertha Means and Ada Anderson. Coincidentally, while I was watching their stories on PBS, Bertha Means, now age 94, was being honored by iACT (Interfaith Action of Central Texas) as a community leader who helped shape Austin. You can watch “Austin Revealed: Civil Rights Stories” here. I hope you will!

After watching three days of speakers and panelists talking about the civil rights movement, I began to wonder what stories I might find in my own family. I sent out an email request to the various branches of my family tree hoping I would get something in return. I got one response – from Dolores Webber McLean:

“My father, Fred M. Webber, marched in the 1963 March on Washington.”


I have written about Fred M. Webber before – here, here, and here. He was my Grandmother Abbie’s brother and a minister – first as a Baptist and later as a Presbyterian. I never really knew my great uncle Fred, but I know we met at least once.

Webber.Fred and Kathy

I followed up with a series of questions to cousin Dee. Unfortunately, she couldn’t tell me much more as she wasn’t living at home at the time. Dee suggested I ask her younger sister.

Let’s just say this got me started digging for more. And I’m not finished. Stay tuned for the rest of the story – hopefully coming soon.

If you would like to read more about Fred M. Webber, click the Fred Myron Webber tag/link at the bottom of this post.