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Reverend H. K. Matthews

Civil rights icon and minister Reverend H.K. Matthews was born Hawthorne Konrad Matthews on February 7, 1928, in Snow Hill, Alabama, to Lavinia Johnson and John Henry Matthews. Matthews was raised by his grandmother, Lucy P. Johnson-Matthews, after his mother died. His grandmother was a school teacher and his father was a farmer. He graduated from Snow Hill Institute in 1947, and attended Alabama Agricultural & Mechanical University for three years before enlisting in the United States military in 1949.

After serving in the Korean War, Matthews them moved to Pensacola, Florida in 1955, where he became involved with church activities and was mentored by one of Pensacola’s leading black clergy, Reverend W.C. Dobbins. During this time, Matthews became active with civil rights activities and was employed by the Florida State Employment Service. He was ordained in the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church in 1961. While living in Florida, Matthews founded the Pensacola National Association for the Advancement of Colored People Youth Council and the Escambia County Chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. Matthews spearheaded protests that resulted in the increased employment of African Americans at Pensacola’s Sacred Heart Hospital, Southern Bell Telephone Company and the West Pensacola Bank. Matthews was jailed thirty-five times for his involvement with the Civil Rights Movement. Matthews returned to Alabama in 1977 and continued to minister at Zion Fountain A.M.E Zion church for twenty-four years. During this time, Matthews was also presiding over twenty-one other churches in the area.

Matthews has received many honors for his work in Pensacola, Florida during the Civil Rights Movement in Pensacola, Florida. In February 2006, the City Council of Pensacola dedicated a park in his honor to recognize the social changes that he brought to the city.

H.K. Matthews was interviews by The HistoryMakers on October 16, 2006.

Accession Number

A2006.121

Sex

Male

Interview Date

10/16/2006

Last Name

Matthews

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Schools

Snow Hill High School

Alabama A&M University

First Name

H.K.

Birth City, State, Country

Snowhill

HM ID

MAT04

Favorite Season

Fall

Sponsor

Arthur Rocker, Sr

State

Alabama

Favorite Vacation Destination

Destin, Florida

Favorite Quote

Absolutely.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Alabama

Birth Date

2/7/1928

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Brewton

Country

USA

Favorite Food

Greens (Collard), Chicken

Short Description

Civil rights activist and minister Reverend H. K. Matthews (1928 - ) established the Pensacola NAACP Youth Council and Escambia County Chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

Employment

Florida State Employment Services

Jefferson Davis Community College

Zion Fountain A.M.E. Zion Church

Main Sponsor
Favorite Color

Blue

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Reverend H.K. Matthews' interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Reverend H.K. Matthews lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Reverend H.K. Matthews describes his maternal grandmother

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Reverend H.K. Matthews describes his maternal grandmother's education and personality

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Reverend H.K. Matthews describes his father

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Reverend H.K. Matthews describes his earliest childhood memories

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Reverend H.K. Matthews describes his early education

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Reverend H.K. Matthews describes his high school education

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Reverend H.K. Matthews describes his childhood extracurricular activities

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Reverend H.K. Matthews describes the collective parenting of his community

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Reverend H.K. Matthews describes Christmas celebrations during his childhood

Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Reverend HK Matthews describes his neighborhood in Snow Hill, Alabama

Tape: 1 Story: 13 - Reverend H.K. Matthews describes the sights, sounds and smells of his childhood

Tape: 1 Story: 14 - Reverend H.K. Matthews remembers Snow Hill Normal and Industrial Institute

Tape: 1 Story: 15 - Reverend H.K. Matthews recalls how he became a preacher

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Reverend H.K. Matthews recalls his professors at Alabama Agricultural and Mechanical College

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Reverend H.K. Matthews describes the role of religion at Alabama Agricultural and Mechanical College

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Reverend H.K. Matthews remembers enlisting in the U.S. Army

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Reverend H.K. Matthews describes his experiences in the Korean War

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Reverend H.K. Matthews describes his life after leaving the U.S. military

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Reverend H.K. Matthews remembers overcoming his alcoholism

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Reverend H.K. Matthews recalls protesting segregation in Pensacola, Florida

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Reverend H.K. Matthews describes St. Mark's A.M.E. Zion Church in Pensacola, Florida

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Reverend H.K. Matthews talks about Reverend W.C. Dobbins

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Reverend H.K. Matthews recalls working at Florida's state employment service agency

Tape: 2 Story: 11 - Reverend H.K. Matthews talks about managing the Escambia Arms housing complex

Tape: 2 Story: 12 - Reverend H.K. Matthews remembers his ordination

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Reverend H.K. Matthews describes his first day at Florida's state employment service agency

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Reverend H.K. Matthews describes his grandmother's influence on his activism

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Reverend H.K. Matthews recalls integrating the Pensacola public school system, pt. 1

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Reverend H.K. Matthews recalls integrating the Pensacola public school system, pt. 2

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Reverend H.K. Matthews describes his arrest at Escambia High School

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Reverend H.K. Matthews remembers sit-ins at businesses in Pensacola, Florida

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Reverend H.K. Matthews recalls the shooting of Wendel Blackwell

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Reverend H.K. Matthews describes the aftermath of Wendel Blackwell's murder

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Reverend H.K. Matthews recalls protesting Wendel Blackwell's murder

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Reverend H.K. Matthews recalls being imprisoned for his civil rights activism

Tape: 3 Story: 11 - Reverend H.K. Matthews recalls founding the Pensacola chapter of SCLC

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Reverend H.K. Matthews remembers the Selma to Montgomery March

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Reverend H.K. Matthews remembers being attacked on the Edmund Pettus Bridge

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Reverend H.K. Matthews remembers Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Reverend H.K. Mathews describes the philosophy behind his activism

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Reverend H.K. Matthews describes his children and grandchildren

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Reverend H.K. Matthews talks about his book, 'Victory After the Fall'

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Reverend H.K. Matthews describes his congregation in Brewton, Alabama

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Reverend H.K. Matthews reads from his book, 'Victory After the Fall,' pt. 1

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Reverend H.K. Matthews reads from his book, 'Victory After the Fall,' pt. 2

Tape: 4 Story: 10 - Reverend H.K. Matthews reflects upon his civil rights activism

Tape: 4 Story: 11 - Reverend H.K. Matthews talks about his awards and honors

Tape: 4 Story: 12 - Reverend H.K. Matthews talks about Arthur Rocca

Tape: 4 Story: 13 - Reverend H.K. Matthews reflects upon his life

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Reverend H.K. Matthews describes his plans for the future

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Reverend H.K. Matthews describes his hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Reverend H.K. Matthews reflects upon how he would like to be remembered

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Reverend H.K. Matthews narrates his photographs

DASession

1$1

DATape

3$4

DAStory

4$1

DATitle
Reverend H.K. Matthews recalls integrating the Pensacola public school system, pt. 2
Reverend H.K. Matthews remembers the Selma to Montgomery March
Transcript
The following year, the students wanted me to speak at Woodham High School [Pensacola, Florida] and some of the colored teachers out there thought it and said that that school was not ready for me because I was too militant? Whatever the case might was, I guess that was it. And, and my thinking was always that being militant is merely pursuing that which rightfully belongs to you. That, that was my definition of militant, but they didn't see it that way. And then the next big thing with the high school was at Escambia High [Escambia High School, Pensacola, Florida] when the black students went--the African American students went to Escambia High School, they played 'Dixie' and we didn't complain too much about the rebel flag, the use of it. We complained about the misuse of it because they were flaunting it in the face of the black students, and that's when the big, big push against the school system when we took the kids out of school and had Freedom Schools set up all over this county. We had Freedom Schools in Atlan [ph.] chapel, the church and several other areas where the black kids were being taught by retired African American teachers and they were getting all of the subject matter that they needed. As a matter of fact, I set up some down in DeFuniak Springs [Florida] and in Chipley [Florida]. So, we finally got the name Rebel, which was the name of the school, Escambia High Rebels. We got that removed. They changed the name of the football team to the One Hundreds or something and they didn't win a game the following year. But that was the biggest push as it relates to schools. There were rioting going--there was rioting going out at the school and, and I always said they blamed me for everything that happened here. If Santa Claus didn't come, they'd blame H. K. Matthews [HistoryMaker Reverend H. K. Matthews]. Easter Bunny didn't lay no eggs, they'd blame H. K. Matthews. I was in the Evergreen--pastoring a church in Evergreen [Florida] and living up there when one of the last riots broke out at Escambia High School and they said it was my fault. (Laughter) You know, I, I was responsible for it. I'm, I'm a hundred miles away, but I'm responsible for the riots that took place.$You joined Martin Luther King [Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.] and the other soldiers in SCLC [Southern Christian Leadership Conference] and you were a leader in SCLC here, Pensacola [Florida]. Tell us about Edmund Pettus Bridge [Selma, Alabama] and that march [Selma to Montgomery March].$$Now, we--I was really, as, as I say, I was a face in the crowd, however, I knew the purpose. The purpose was trying to get a voting rights act passed. And I considered myself and the people did here, a leader in the African American community and I felt that in order for me to represent myself as a leader or represent this community as a leader, I need to be involved in something that was broader than Pensacola and Chipley [Florida] and DeFuniak Springs [Florida] in those areas. And, and, and so when the call went out for people to come to Selma [Alabama], I answered the call. I--you know, I got in my little blue--my pink and white Ford and I, I went to Selma and all, all I wanted to do was just be out. I didn't care if I was at the tail, or the middle or wherever I was. I wanted to be in a part of something that was going to make a significant change in the life of this country. First of all, I served in Korea. I was disappointed that I had fought against an enemy who could come over here and have more privileges than I had. And so I, I just wanted to be a part of that. I, I was not thinking about a part of history making, that was not--that was the furthest thing from my mind. The thing for my mind was the fact that yeah, our people are unable to vote, you know, freely. You know, who, who, who wants an interpreter, consulter. Who can? You know, who wants to pay poll tax. Who wants to do all of this stuff just to be able to pull a lever or to vote? So, you know, that was an opportunity for me to assert myself whether anybody noticed me or not. And so that was my rationale, my reasoning for hooking up with that march because I wanted to be a part of something, something greater than sit-ins and selective buying campaigns--