October 22, 2020

Capital’s Robert S. Graetz, a Civil Rights Legend, Dies at 92

On Sunday Sept. 20, Robert S. Graetz, a Capital alum involved with the Montgomery bus boycott, passed away at the age of 92.

After graduating from Capital in 1950, Graetz landed a job as the pastor of a predominately Black church in Montgomery, AL called Trinity Lutheran.

Graetz is pictured here with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

While living in Montgomery, Graetz became a neighbor and close friend of Rosa Parks. Before long, Graetz became an open supporter of the Montgomery bus boycott, and this eventually led him to become the secretary of the Montgomery Improvement Association, a group that was spearheaded by Martin Luther King Jr. and Ralph Abernathy.

Due to their ardent support of the boycotts, the Graetz family was alienated by the white community and received threats and several bombing attempts on their home.

What exactly led a man like Graetz to become the pastor of a Black congregation during the reign of Jim Crow laws? How did this all begin?

Born on May 16, 1928, in Clarksburg, WV, Graetz grew into a man with aspirations for higher education. Coming from German descent himself, Graetz wanted to study his own culture, but upon coming to Capital, he became aware of the severe discrimination within the higher education system.

With Lutheran beliefs and a strong drive for social change, Graetz went on to graduate from the Trinity Lutheran Seminary and became a clergyman.

For an intimate look into the life of Robert S. Graetz, please check out the student-produced documentary film called “Capital in the Sixties.”

See Robert S. Graetz’s obituary here.

  • Robert Cumberlander is the Editor-in-Chief of The Chimes and a junior at Capital University, majoring in Film and Media Production with a minor in Entrepreneurship.

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