The Northwest Florida Daily News profiles Reverend H. K Matthews today. There's additional information on the Reverend here at The History Makers. Matthews paid an incredible price for his Civil Rights work over the years and encourages the youth of today to not take for granted something once thought unobtainable for an Afro-American: the vote.
His grandmother didn’t live to see it, but when he grew up, Matthews became personal friends with leaders such as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and spent several years of his life fighting for equal rights.
Matthews helped establish Freedom Schools throughout the Panhandle for expelled students who walked out of school because of harassment during integration. He has been jailed 35 times for leading protests and demonstrations for civil rights. He was sent to prison for crimes he didn’t commit, only later to be acquitted. His family’s lives were threatened for what he stood up for. He was shot at for defending other people. Eight known contracts were taken out on his life for who he was. He did all this for others.
Later in life, those he helped abandoned him when he faced hard labor imprisonment for crimes he never committed. And despite the injustice he’s faced, he remains a happy man.
Matthews says one of the accomplishments by African-Americans that younger generations take for granted is the right to vote in spite of the tremendous price paid by people such as those who marched, and were beaten, in the Edmund Pettus Bridge March in 1965. It was this march that led to President Lyndon Johnson enacting the Voting Rights Act that superseded local laws that prohibited blacks from voting.