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Alabama judge surprises civil rights pioneer after clearing her arrest record

▶ Watch Video: Civil rights pioneer Claudette Colvin has arrest records expunged

Judge Calvin Williams of Montgomery, Alabama, wasn’t born yet when 15-year-old Claudette Colvin was arrested for refusing to give up her seat on a bus. But he says he benefited from the civil rights pioneer. And it’s not lost on him that he is now the one – 66 years later – who was able to expunge the record of that incident and clear her name.  

“I want to thank you for your courage. Your courageous act. I want to, on behalf of myself and all of the judges in Montgomery, offer my apology for an injustice that was perpetrated upon you,” Williams said sitting next to Colvin in an exclusive interview with “CBS Mornings.”

“What Miss Colvin did has such great significance. And that’s because it holds such great symbolism,” he continued. 

“When she did this in 1955, there were no African American judges in Montgomery. And now, I’m one of several African American judges in Montgomery. And so, the remarkable thing is that I sit in a position to look and do something judicious in a judicious way to correct an injustice that was perpetrated against her so long ago that never should have happened. That’s the uniqueness of this whole circumstance. That she stood up for right, and now I’m the beneficiary and byproduct of that and I can correct the wrong that was done to her. That’s the significance of it.”

Judge Calvin Williams meets Claudette Colvin after he had her arrest record expunged.

CBS News

Colvin knew of the ruling that her name had been cleared. But she didn’t know Judge Williams — and had never seen him. 

“I’m so glad I’m sitting next to the judge. And he’s colored,” said Colvin. “No, it doesn’t matter what color you are. Righteous is righteous.” 

Asked if she didn’t know the judge was African American, Colvin replied, “No, I thought he was Caucasian.” 

She told Williams that she wants to ensure that Black children aren’t treated unfairly because of their race. 

Williams responded: “Thanks to you they won’t. They will be treated fairly.”

Williams told Colvin, “You are a hero. To all of us.”



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