‘I learned a lot about the Civil Rights Movement from Charles’: Remembering Albany Civil Rights leader Rev. Charles Sherrod

He was 85.
Published: Oct. 12, 2022 at 7:17 PM EDT
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ALBANY, Ga. (WALB) - One of the organizers of Albany’s Civil Rights Movement has passed away.

Reverend Charles Sherrod passed away on Tuesday at 85 years old, however, friends and colleagues tell WALB that his legacy will live on forever.

Rev. Sherrod was born on January 2, 1937, in rural Surry, Virginia. He passed away from natural causes at his home in Albany.

An old picture of Charles Sherrod (on the right).
An old picture of Charles Sherrod (on the right).(WALB)

Sherrod is credited with starting the Albany Movement in the 1960s, which aimed to improve the quality of life among Black people in the segregated South by doing things such as helping Black people register to vote.

Frank Wilson is a historian who knew Sherrod.

“I learned a lot about the Civil Rights Movement from Charles. And really he allowed me to see the movement from his eyes and our history in its place,” Wilson said. “You know, there are a lot of names that are thrown out through our history about the Albany Movement. Charles Sherrod was definitely ahead in the Albany Movement history.”

Frank Wilson is a historian who knew Charles Sherrod.
Frank Wilson is a historian who knew Charles Sherrod.(WALB)

Sherrod also served as one of Albany’s first Black city commissioners from 1976 to 1990. He also taught at Albany State University.

This is something that Muarlean Edwards, who is also a former Dougherty County commissioner, says inspired her.

“He had been a former city commissioner. And he was very inspirational in giving me pointers when my three children- my first son, who is Victor Edwards, my daughter, who’s Velvet, is also on the school board and chairman,” Edwards said.

Muarlean Edwards (pictured holding the microphone) is a former DOCO Commissioner.
Muarlean Edwards (pictured holding the microphone) is a former DOCO Commissioner.(WALB)

As a result of Sherrod’s efforts, the Albany Movement began to gain national attention.

“Regardless of what the history books may say about the Albany Movement, I agree with Charles Sherrod. It sort of set the place for many movements, especially in Birmingham, Alabama,” Edwards said.

Angie Gibson is a local author.

“Just his presence to me inspired people to want to do better and be better. And his legacy is one that I feel like cannot be easily matched by anyone,” Gibson said. “He willingly gave up himself to be of service to others to make others better. And he did that not only during the Civil Rights Movement but whatever he got involved in after that particular time.”

One of the things Rev. Sherrod was widely known for, was his efforts to help Black people in then-segregated southwest Georgia register to vote. He also made advances when it comes to education.

This is something Gibson noticed right away.

“He was really concerned about people, especially his students, taking ownership of their education,” Gibson said. “And taking ownership in the fact that if they apply themselves if they invest in education and got a love for it; it would be a benefit, a skill that they would never do without and would always make them a better person.”

Attorney Chevene King was a friend of the reverend and also represented him at one point in time.

King says Sherrod went above and beyond to change his surroundings.

“For someone to have been an outsider, so to speak, I think that he overcame a lot of obstacles that others may not have been or I know we’re not as successful as,” King said. “Certainly, his decision to stay beyond the point at which the movement began to wind down I think is a true testament to his dedication.”

Reverend Charles Sherrod is survived by his wife, Shirley, and two daughters, among others who WALB is told, are doing their best to continue to keep his efforts alive.