URIAH J. FIELDS BIOGRAPHY
Uriah J. Fields (born during the Great Depression, the year when a severe drought ravaged the agricultural heartland of the United States) is a clergyman, author, provocateur and human rights activists. Born in the hamlet Sunflower, Alabama in Washington County he is one of sixteen children born to Henry H. Fields (nine children) and Virginia Woodyard and (seven children) and Amanda Fendley, Uriah's mother. Uriah was partly raised by his paternal Grandfather Benjamin F. Fields, born during slavery, was the chief founder of the the Fields School that Uriah attended the first eight years of his schooling. He accredits his Grandfather with being the person who more than any other man impacted his life.
Uriah J. Fields was a founder and president of the American Christian Freedom Society, a founder and Encourager-in-Chief of the Mutuality Warrior Corps, Inc, a founder and director of the Mutuality Center for Creative Living (a California-style human development Center) and moderator of the People United Freedom Forum (PUFF) in Los Angeles where he was a resident during the Watts Riot in 1965 and the Rodney King Riot* in 1992. His leadership, that included PUFF encounters, was instrumental in helping to lessen the violence that accounted for 34 deaths during the Watts Riot and 58 deaths that included 7 women during the Rodney King Riot and helping Los Angeles to heal. For a score of years he was the recording secretary of the Los Angeles Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance.
Not quite a year after graduating from the McIntosh Union High School in Washington County, Alabama and six months after taking up residence in Mobile, Fields enlisted for three years in the United States Army. After the Korean War was declared the Government extended his enlistment an additional year. While in the military he attended a clerical school and Troop Information and Education school. He served as a Chaplain's Assistant the last two years of his four-year tour of duty. He was still in the military when he was licensed to preach by the St. Abraham Baptist Church in Baltimore, Maryland.
Immediately after being discharged from the Army he spent a half year as an employee at a Chicago Post Office before returning to his native state of Alabama where he matriculated at the Alabama State College (now University) and received a Bachelor of Science degree and a Masters degree in Education. He was elected president of his freshman class and three years later, president of the College Student Body. In July of 1953 he became pastor of the Bell Street Baptist Church in Montgomery, a position he held for nine tumultuous years for the people of Montgomery.
On December 1, 1955 Rosa Parks was arrested for violating the segregation laws of Alabama when she refused to give her bus seat to a white person. Four days after her arrest on December 5th, the day of her trial she was found guilty of violating Alabama segregation laws. That was also the first day of the Montgomery Bus Boycott.** The people had responded to their leaders' call to boycott buses to demonstrate their support for Rosa Parks and protest the unfair treatment bus riders exprienced. On the afternoon of that historic day eighteen people, composed mostly of Ministers met at the Mt. Zion African American Episcopal Zion Church and organized the Montgomery Improvement Association (MIA) to give a structure for conducting the bus boycott and to protest the inhumane treatment the white establishment imposed on African Americans. During that meeting Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., was elected to serve as president, Uriah J. Fields was elected recording secretary and and E. D. Nixon treasurer of the MIA. King appointed Rev. Ralph David Abernathy chairman of the Resolutions and Recommendations Committee to draw up resolutions and recommendations that were presented to the 3,000-plus people attending the first mass meeting of the bus boycott later that evening at the Holt Street Baptist Church who enthusiastically voted to continue the one-day old bus boycott until city and bus company officials made a positive response to demands of African Americans for humane treatment for bus riders.
Fields served as recording secretary of the MIA during the first half of the 382-day long bus boycott that ended when the U. S. Supreme Court ruled that segregation on Montgomery buses was unconstitutional. African Americans returned to riding desegregated buses facing racists' last-ditch efforts to use violence that included shootings to prevent bus desegregation. In the wee hours of January 10, 1957, racists bombed four churches, including Bell Street Baptist Church and two parsonages. Taylor Branch writes in his book, "Parting the Waters, "Bell Street Baptist Church was the worst of the bombed churches." The church had to be rebuilt. On May 18, 1958, sixteen months after the bombing, under the pastoral leadership of Fields, members of Bell Street Baptist Church and a host of well-wishers and observers entered the church after the ribbon-cutting by the oldest member of the congregation for the first worship service in the new sanctuary.
While serving as pastor Fields attended the Gammon Theological Seminary (Interdenominational Theological Center) in Atlanta for three years and in 1959 he graduated with the Masters of Divinity degree cum laude. He pursued study in the area of Alcohol and Narcotics Education at the University of Saskatchewan in Canada. A year before leaving Montgomery in July of 1962 to take up residence in California Fields' name appeared on the ballot as a candidate for membership on Montgomery County's School Board. He had become a registered voter ten years before the Voting Rights Act of 1965 when only a few courageous African Americans succeeded in becoming registered voters in Montgomery. The only other name of an African American to appear on a Montgomery ballot during the twentieth century was E. D. Nixon who ran for a seat on Montgomery County's Democratic Executive Committee in 1954. We both received threats from the Ku Klux Klan and we both knew we would not be elected to the offices we sought. However, we dared to not allow fear to prevent us from exercising our right to participate fully in the democratic process.
Fields resigned as pastor of Bell Street Baptist Church with the intention of and commitment to serve in the Peace Corps. Less than a year after President John F. Kennedy on March 1, 1961 signed Executive Order 10924 authorizing the Peace Corps Fields decided to enlist in the Peace Corps that at the time when just a few more than a thousand volunteers had joined the Peace Corps that included the 52 Peace Corps volunteers to be sent to Ghana (the first country to receive Peace Corps volunteers.) Fields had his medical examination at Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery and after receiving a congratulation letter from Robert Sargent Shirver, Jr, Director of the Peace Corps, he received orders to report to the University of Pittsburgh for his orientation before going to Africa to teach. Fields said that he had a spiritual revelation that directed him not to join the Peace Corps and not to go East to the University of Pittsburgh but instead to go West to California. He heeded the voice of God which he said was as clear to him as any voice he had ever heard and having a change of heart he journeyed to California driving a station wagon that was used five years earlier to transport people who boycotted buses in Montgomery. In California he furthered his education at the University of California in Los Angeles and at the California Graduate School of Theology which awarded him the Ph.D. degree in 1975. He held the General Secondary Teaching Credential and taught in several schools in the Los Angeles Unified School District. In 1978 he received 11,512 votes when he was a candidate for the United States House of Representative. He was a delegate to the Republican California State Convention. He was editor of the Full Life Magazine for a decade and his articles appeared in newspapers and magazines. He was a founder and director of the American Christian Freedom Society and the Mutuality Warrior Corps and chief facilitator at the Mutuality Center for Creative Living, a California-style human development center, where he conducted seminars and other human development activities. After living in California for thirty-three years he resided the next four years in Flagstaff, Arizona and spent considerable time frequenting the Navajo and Hopi Reservations. He now lives in Charlottesville, Virginia where his avocations are writing and singing. As a troubadour, he is often engages in street singing, playing the harmonica and making advocacy proclamations that call for justice and equality for all.
AUTHOR AND COMPOSER
Fields is author of books on a variety of subjects, including Inside the Montgomery Bus Boycott: My Personal Story, The Mutuality Warrior, God With Us, The Saint Troubadour: Speaking and Singing Truth and Love, The Fields School: An African American School Without Failures Located in Rural Alabama 1933-1949 (The first eight years of his schooling was at the Fields School), the novel Grandpa Benjamin (in which the author's paternal Grandfather is the protagonist) and two song books, Spirit Lifting Songs and Twenty-Eight Good News Songs. His other writings consisting of articles, essays, poems, meditations and songs can be accessed at: www.uriahfields.com and www.authorsden.com/visit/author.asp?id=11021.
On this Website:
From the menu to read this author's eyewitness account of "The Rodney King
Riot" click on "The Rodney King Riot."
From the menu to read more about the Montgomery Bus Boycott Click on "The
First Day of the Montgomery Bus Boycott" and "Montgomery Bus Boycott."
Copyright 2015 by Uriah J. Fields