William F. “Bill” McGee’s life was closely tied to the struggle for civil rights.

While born in Richmond, he spent his youth in Atlanta, attending elementary school alongside Yolanda King and Martin L. King III, the children of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. He graduated from the same high school as Dr. King attended – historic Booker T Washington High in Atlanta – and later taught at Dr. King’s alma mater, Morehouse College.

He also attended Ebenezer Baptist Church, the historic church in Atlanta where Dr. King and his father both pastored.

He participated in marches and other social justice actions in his youth.

Fast forward a few decades and Mr. McGee is now president of the Richmond chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, a civil rights organization started by Dr. King and other pastors in Atlanta in 1957 that is committed in non-violent action to achieve social, economic goals. and political justice.

As president, a role he assumed on February 11, Mr. McGee seeks to tap into the same enthusiasm for progress and equality among young people that has fueled the movement in which he has been immersed for a great part of his life, and to support the organization. for future generations.

“The SCLC is too important to the civil rights community to go away,” McGee said when asked why he had taken on the local’s top volunteer position. “We need a strong SCLC, NAACP, CORE (Congress for Racial Equality), and Urban League just as much now as we did in the 1950s and 1960s.”

To ensure the strength and future of Richmond SCLC, Mr. McGee seeks to increase youth membership and engage young people in Richmond in the fight against injustice.

To achieve this goal, McGee and the local SCLC chapter want churches and other local organizations to sponsor at least seven young members from each congregation in the city and surrounding counties. They also reach out to fraternity and sorority groups to encourage students to enroll with a commitment to activism, community service, and social justice.

“We will lead the country in revitalizing the organization by engaging young people, empowering them, motivating them and allowing them to lead the way, said McGee.

“We will speak to youth groups about the importance of activism and advocacy in the face of bigotry, injustice, disenfranchisement and violence perpetrated every day in Central Virginia and across the country. “, he says.

Mr. McGee says voter registration, education, mobilization and motivation are the main goals for the current year. With midterm elections in November and the potential redistricting further shifting the balance of power across the state, Mr. McGee is determined the organization will do its part to “reverse the damage done in the last election. and prevent any further decline in Virginia’s progress.

A major membership drive is expected to begin in the first week of April, McGee said.

“Bigotry and hatred have been used to oppress and intimidate people of all colors, religions, gender preferences or cultures,” Mr McGee said. “Everyone benefits when people unite against discrimination and injustice.”

Meet the new leading local voice in the fight for civil rights, William F. “Bill” McGee:

Volunteer position #1: President, Richmond Chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, or SCLC.

Occupation: Educator, musician and activist.

Date and place of birth: 1952 in Richmond.

Where I live now: Richmond.

Education: Booker T. Washington High School in Atlanta; Morris Brown College, Atlanta; Bachelor of Music, Virginia State College; and Masters of Education, Norfolk State University.

Family: wife, Wanda Tisdale McGee; three children; and nine grandchildren, including 12-year-old triplets.

The Southern Christian Leadership Conference is: A civil rights organization.

National President: Dr Charles Steele Jr.

When and why SCLC Richmond Chapter was founded: Like all local chapters and affiliates, the Richmond Chapter was formed to combat the discrimination and prejudice and Jim Crow-era bigotry that plagued this birthplace of the Confederacy and the nation. Segregation was strong in Virginia, as was the determination to stand up and fight injustice nonviolently. Dr King spoke in Richmond a week after the successful end of the Montgomery bus boycott. It was not until three weeks later that the SCLC was founded in Atlanta by Dr. King and representatives from 10 states, with Virginia being one of the first states with representatives present.

Richmond Founders: The founding of the SCLC in Central Virginia points to Reverend Milton Reid, Dr. Samuel D. Proctor, Reverend Curtis Harris, Reverend Wyatt Tee Walker, and other notable established Richmond ministers who worked with and supported Dr. King on his many trips to Virginia Union University, Virginia State College (now University), and the cities of Richmond, Petersburg, and Hopewell throughout the 1950s. Many leaders of the Richmond movement were early members and active in the NAACP, the Virginia Teachers Association and the Richmond Crusade for Voters. All of these organizations contributed to Virginia’s involvement in the SCLC, which was founded in 1957.

SCLC Richmond and Dr. King Chapter: Since the early 1950s, Dr. King and Richmond, Petersburg and Hopewell had been closely associated. In 1953 a very young Dr King came to speak in Richmond at VUU where he met Reverend Wyatt Tee Walker, Reverend Milton Reed, Reverend Walter Fauntleroy and Dr Samuel DeWitt Proctor. During this time, a great bond was formed which is documented in the many personal letters he shared with these colleagues. A special friendship was formed with Reverend Walker and Reverend Curtis Harris that lasted until Dr. King was assassinated in April 1968 in Memphis.

Goal or Project #1 as SCLC Chair: Increase youth membership and empower young people to get involved in the fight against injustice by voting and standing up for their rights.

Who benefits from the SCLC Richmond Chapter: Everyone benefits when people unite against discrimination and injustice. Although the SCLC is a Christian organization, we support other organizations, not based on race, gender or religion, because while it may be that person today, tomorrow it could be your child or a member of your family. Fanaticism and hatred have been used to oppress and intimidate people of all colors, religions, gender preferences or cultures. The labor movement has proven that we all benefit when we stand together.

How the SCLC Richmond Chapter is looking to stay relevant in 2022: We’re going to have to send voters across the Commonwealth to make up for the damage done in the last election. It should be noted that the young progressive incumbent in Petersburg, a graduate of Virginia State University, lost only 512 votes. This should never have happened.

A perfect day for me is: Spending quality time with my family, working on a repair project, and having some free time to work on music in the studio.

What I’m learning about myself during the pandemic: I don’t need most of the clothes I own. I haven’t worn a pair of Stacy Adams in two years.

Something I love to do that most people would never imagine: I am a Mr. Fix-it. I love fixing anything and everything around the house and on cars. I rebuilt engines, tore down walls and redid a bathroom. I repair computers and all kinds of technology. I recently fixed several pieces of furniture that the children broke. I have been a vegetarian since 1977.

Quote that inspires me: “To whom we give a lot, we ask a lot. »

My friends describe me as: Simple and straightforward. Sometimes I have a sharp tongue. They also know that I have a good heart.

At the top of my to-do list: Finishing my fifth solo CD as a jazz artist and writing a book about HBCU’s influence on the entertainment industry.

Best late night snack: Ginger ale and a small Hershey’s chocolate bar or a cup of Reese’s peanut butter.

Best thing my parents ever taught me: That growing up without two parents is hard on a child and that education is the great equalizer. I am a fourth generation HBCU graduate.

Person who influenced me the most: My grandmother, Lorraine Odom Wiggins, graduated in 1923 from Shaw University.

Book that influenced me the most: “Nigger: An Autobiography” by Dick Gregory and Robert Lipsyte and “Things Fall Apart” by Chinua Achebe.

What I’m currently reading: “I’d Always Say Yes: A Dreamer’s Tale of Entertainment Industry Survival” by Joyce Irby and “Then There Was One” by Ray N. Smith Jr.

Next goal: Promoting prostate cancer awareness and the PSA test. I have been a cancer survivor for seven years.