Born decades apart, the life stories of Montgomery Circuit Judge Calvin Williams, a 1993 Auburn University at Montgomery graduate, and civil rights pioneer Claudette Colvin served as the highlight of the 14th annual MLK Jr. Reflections Breakfast.
During the breakfast, Williams, the event’s keynote speaker, reflected on his 2021 expungement of Colvin’s 1955 arrest record for refusing to give up her seat on a Montgomery city bus as a teenager.
“One year ago, I believe I had a head-on collision with destiny,” he said. “In 1955, I was not yet born when a 15-year-old black girl in the city of Montgomery, Alabama, encountered a speed bump that would impact her life and ultimately the lives of so many others.”
Colvin’s courageous act of refusal set into motion actions that would lead to Williams being asked 66 years later to correct the injustice of her arrest and conviction. Colvin was 82 years old at the time of her request, which Williams granted on November 21, 2021.
“My head-on collision with destiny was to be the judge to preside over a motion, a request by Mrs. Claudette Colvin, to expunge her arrest and conviction, an arrest and conviction that formed the genesis of a national movement and a landmark desegregation case,” he said. “The significance of this moment was not lost upon me.”
Williams noted that his rise from an African American boy raised by a single mother in Montgomery’s housing projects to presiding judge over Montgomery’s Family Court Division would not have been possible without civil rights pioneers like Colvin.
“This was a remarkable story that I just happen to be a part of, but it encapsulates the meaning of working together to make hope reality,” he said. “I used this story as a backdrop to amplify the fact that together we can be the dream.”
A tradition at AUM since 2010, the MLK Jr. Reflections Breakfast connects River Region community members and the AUM campus community with civil rights activists and servant leaders. Previous speakers have included Equal Justice Initiative founder and executive director Bryan Stevenson, former Martin Luther King Jr. confidante Xernona Clayton, author and motivational speaker Cyntoia Brown-Long and civil rights activist Bernard Lafayette Jr.