Driver for 1961 Freedom Riders, Herbert Young, dies

The civil rights activist was among the first Black people to integrate the Montgomery Area Transit System.

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Herbert Young was 25 years old in 1961 when he made history busing Freedom Riders through Alabama’s capital city of Montgomery, where an angry mob confronted them. He died on Jan. 2 at age 86, the Montgomery Advertiser reports.

Young also cemented his place in the legacy of the Civil Rights Movement when he was among the first Black people to integrate the Montgomery Area Transit System. According to his obituary, within a year of working, he was chosen to train all incoming bus drivers, regardless of race. 

"Freedom Riders" - Washington, DC Premiere
Congressman John Lewis (left) appears with other Freedom Riders on May 6, 2011, during the premiere of the PBS documentary “Freedom Riders,” which celebrated the 50th anniversary of the original Freedom Rides, at The Newseum in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Kris Connor/Getty Images)

The Montgomery native spent some of his free time to drive the “Freedom Riders” who were testing the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision, Boynton v. Virginia (which outlawed racial segregation in public transportation.)

Young’s role with the Freedom Riders was not the only major highlight of his life. He served in the Montgomery Police Department for five years before he became the first Black deputy marshal, according to his obituary. Young was also a beloved businessman who owned a beauty salon, car lot, car wash and bus transportation service. He also operated a limousine service for more than 30 years.

When he was age 13, Young got a job at Ross-Clayton Funeral Home and worked there off and on until his death. At Pilgrim Rest Missionary Baptist Church, he served as a trustee and helped manage money and property.

“The one thing he treasured was the love for his church,” community advocate Cubie Hayes told the Montgomery Adviser. 

“He knew a lot of people and a lot of things, especially in Montgomery, and he helped a lot of people,” said Zach Buchner of the Pilgrim Rest Missionary Baptist Church.

“He will be missed by Ross-Clayton and throughout the community,” said Young’s Ross-Clayton Funeral Home co-worker Joe Kendrick, the Montgomery Adviser reports.

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