A TRIBUTE TO RUTLEDGE H. PEARSON
By his student and protégé, Rodney L. Hurst Sr.
Mr. Rutledge Henry Pearson was my Eighth grade American History teacher...my Ninth grade Civics teacher...and in addition to being the adviser to the Jacksonville Youth Council NAACP, he was my mentor.
Mr. Pearson’s segregated Eighth Grade American History Class in an old segregated Negro Junior High school was a study in real American History. We researched historical issues and famous persons outside of the classroom: From slavery, to studying and knowing Toussaint L’Ouverture (the Father of Haiti), Reconstruction, the Compromise of 1877, James Weldon Johnson, Harry T. Moore, and A. Philip Randolph, Dr. Daniel Hale Williams, Dr, Charles Drew, Garrett Morgan, Elijah McCoy, Matt Henson to name just a few subjects.
Mr. Pearson made sure we -his students- knew the Blacks who made salient contributions to American History, that we knew and understood the historical events and issues, and we understood the struggle for human dignity and respect. He helped us understand the legacy of Black History and the Civil Rights Movement while expanding American history and understanding inclusiveness.
In our classroom Mr. Pearson would tell us “…if you are not a part of the solution, you are a part of the problem” and encourage us to join the Jacksonville Youth Council NAACP. His classroom invitation led many of us to join the Youth Council NAACP. In fact, Jacksonville Youth Council NAACP meetings were extensions of Mr. Pearson’s American History class.
Mr. Pearson not only impacted his students and Youth Council NAACP members but also his family. His wife Mary Ann Pearson has continuously worked as a volunteer for the local branch of the NAACP and the Florida State Conference of Branches NAACP. Their daughter Patricia, was one of the first Black students to integrate Ribault High School, a heretofore segregated high school in Jacksonville.
Whether he was working with Thurgood Marshall and Constance Baker Motley of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund; with Roy Wilkins, National NAACP Executive Director; Ruby Hurley, Southeastern NAACP Regional Director; Rev. A Leon Lowry and Father Theodore Gibson, his predecessors as Presidents of the Florida State Conference of Branches NAACP; Bob Saunders, Florida staff NAACP Field Secretary; Medgar Evers, Mississippi staff NAACP Field Secretary; or introducing me to A. Philip Randolph, Mr. Pearson’s “thumbprint” was all over the Civil Rights Movement in Jacksonville and the State of Florida.