IN HONOR OF BLACK HISTORY MONTH 2015 Dr. Gilbert R. Mason, Sr.

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Dr. Gilbert Rutledge Mason, Sr. (born Oct. 7, 1928 – July 8, 2006)
Biloxi Wade-Ins
Protests that occurred on the beaches of Biloxi, Mississippi between 1959 and 1963. The demonstrations were led by Gilbert Mason, Sr. in an effort to desegregate the beaches of the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Before the beaches were desegregated homeowners claimed the beaches as private property, and despite the fact the beaches were built by the Army Corps of Engineers using taxpayer funds, African Americans were restricted to designated areas of the beachfront. The effort to keep the beaches segregated was supported by the Mississippi State Sovereignty Commission
In May of 1959, family physician Dr. Gilbert R. Mason, Sr. was enjoying a beach day in Biloxi, Mississippi with his son, neighbors, and boys from his Boy Scout troop when an auto accident occurred nearby. After dealing with the accident, police asked Mason and his friends to leave the “private, whites only” beach. Mason discovered that the beach was federally-funded after consulting with an attorney. Therefore, Biloxi police had no legal right to deny blacks access to the property.
In 1960, Mason led the first 200-person “wade-in” on Gulf Coast Beach. Known as “Bloody Sunday,” protesters faced violent opposition: they were beaten with baseball bats, cue sticks, and chains; some had rocks thrown at them; and several people were shot. Mason was arrested and reprimanded by the Gulf Coast Medical Society (of which he was not a member, as blacks were barred from membership). The U.S. Department of Justice filed suit against the City of Biloxi, but the case stalled in the courts, prompting another “wade-in” in 1963. In 1967, a federal judge ruled in favor of the U.S. Department of Justice, allowing blacks legal access to Mississippi’s beaches.
Mason continued to operate his private family practice during his Civil Rights struggle. He also founded the Biloxi chapter of the NAACP, and served as the president of the Mississippi NAACP for over three decades. Mason passed away in 2006. Golden Globe-nominated actor Michael Ealy is set to play Dr. Mason in the upcoming biopic, “A Civil Right”.

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