Booker T. Jones on the 1964 Civil Rights Act

CBS News asked noted figures in the arts, business and politics about their experience in today's civil rights movement, or about figures who inspired them in their activism.

Booker T. Jones, musician (Booker T. and the MGs), songwriter, and record producer

Is there something that you'd like to share about your personal connection to civil rights issues?

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Courtesy Booker T. Jones
On the heels of one of the most alarming political assassination of our time, an assuredly uneasy President Lyndon B. Johnson of Texas signed an act on July 2, 1964, as a matter of course. He might as well have used invisible ink. Constantly, executive orders and Affirmative Action were needed to make President John F. Kennedy's initiative earn any simulations of actuality in real life. Institutions, individuals and businesses simply ignored the new laws and continued discriminatory practices.

In the wake of the gruesome slaughter of President Kennedy, the adroit Johnson used his political savvy and called up sizable bravery. But such fortitude pales next to the moxie demonstrated by a tired, diminutive black woman nine years earlier on a bus in Alabama when told to give up her seat to a white passenger. She was Mrs. Rosa Parks.

Given the long history of racial injustices and cruelties rivaling the worst man has ever inflicted on the oppressed, Mrs. Park's act of defiance was significant enough to give rise to the civil rights movement. The petite woman's actions showed courage and resolve, and provided the impetus which instigated events that led to the landmark legislation, and her heroism was no less than Herculean in its effect on the progress of the black race.

Such is the legacy of Rosa Parks. There is no figure in the civil rights history of America that is more deserving, or that has demonstrated more daring and humility than Mrs. Rosa Parks.

I imagine my very own mother suffered identical belittlement as she worked as a domestic on Memphis' affluent Park Avenue, taking the bus from Walker Avenue in the mid-1920s. She passed her positions down to my sister, Gwen, who was a maid at the Park Hotel in the 1940s near the time of my birth. This was the Memphis accurately depicted in the movie, "The Blind Side."

I can't imagine that Mrs. Parks' Montgomery, Ala., was much different.

The woman was routinely required -- ordered -- to relinquish her seat to a white man as the bus filled with people.

The technique of the "filibuster" had never been put to such effective use until it fell into the custody of Sen. Strom Thurmond, once the idea was presented to the U.S. Congress to outlaw discrimination based on race. After 54 days of extended debate to delay the vote, Sen. Hubert Humphrey was able to scrape together the minimum of votes to pass the act.

At the time, the U.S.'s closest allies had supported Apartheid in South Africa for more than 15 years. Still, the 1964 Civil Rights Act stands, in history, as the single most important effort by the U.S. government to establish itself as an upstanding institution -- and allow America to take its place as a leader of nations.


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