Biography

William Harbour

William Harbour

Freedom Rider Piedmont, AL

A native of Piedmont, AL, William Harbour was the oldest of eight children and the first member of his family to go to college. At age 19, while a student at Tennessee State University, he had already participated in civil disobedience, traveling to Rock Hill, SC to serve jail time in solidarity with the "Rock Hill Nine" — nine students imprisoned after a lunch counter sit-in.

One of the first to exit the bus when the Nashville Movement Freedom Ride arrived at the Montgomery Greyhound Bus Station, Harbour encountered a mob of 200 people wielding lead pipes and baseball bats. Harbour survived the riot but after the end of the Freedom Rides, still faced hostility in his native Alabama. He was also one of 14 Freedom Riders expelled from Tennessee State University.

"Be best for you not to come [home]," his mother warned him in 1961. With the exception of one brief visit, he stayed away from Piedmont for the next five years.

After the Freedom Rides, Harbour taught school for several years, and eventually became a civilian federal employee specializing in U.S. Army base closings. Today, Harbour acts as the unofficial archivist of the Freedom Rider Movement. He moved to Atlanta, GA in 1969.

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