James Hurt, Civil Rights Leader
On May 21, 2016 James Hurt was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award by the Allegany County, Maryland NAACP Branch 7007. The following biography appeared in the ceremony program:
"Should you be lucky enough to walk down Walnut Alley on the right warm afternoon, you might find Mr. Hurt on his porch. If you do, stop, sit down, and be prepared to be educated. Mr. Hurt has lived a life of steadfast determination and faith. If you want to learn about the civil rights struggle there is no better teacher. Mr. Hurt has fought for civil rights his entire life, for his church, for his community, even for the right to spell his name correctly.
Here in Cumberland, Mr. Hurt served as NAACP president for five years in the 1960s. As Dr. King was leading a nationwide struggle for civil rights, Mr. Hurt was leading Allegany County's branch of the NAACP in peaceful demonstration to save the homes of many members of Cumberland's African American community from the Thruway Project that would eventually claim those homes and worship place of many. During the struggle, a week after Dr. King's March on Washington, Mr. Hurt declared, 'We believe that we, as American citizens, can neither make nor accept any compromise with discrimination or segregation of people on the basis of race. We also believe this is contrary to the Constitution of the United States of America' (September 5, 1963). Although the fight to save the homes was eventually lost, Mr. Hurt proved himself such a stalwart figure that the city fathers asked him to run for Mayor in the early 1970s.
However, Mr. Hurt began his leadership journey in his church, long before the days of the Civil Rights Movement. At fifteen he stepped up to replace his grandfather as a deacon. Eventually, in 1978, Mr. Hurt became ordained and made overseer of his church in Cumberland, Fairmont WV and Phillippi, WV. Mr. Hurt served as overseer for 21 years. When he returned, he was honored with the title of 'Pastor Emeritus'. Most recently, Mr. Hurt's life in the church and in the movement for justice was celebrated in the Bethel Temple's Living Heroes celebration.
To mark the measure of this man, one can do no better than share Mr. Hurt's own words:
'It is recorded that the steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord. It is my hope that my life is a catalyst to inspiration and a way of aspiring someone to emulate the good as I walk across the desert from earth t glory, leaving footprints on the sand of time.' "
Photograph by Albert L. Feldstein
Allegany County, Maryland
African Americans, History; Allegany County (Md.), History.
Allegany County (Md.), 1890-2008