• 75°

Reverend fought for civil rights

By By LYDIA GRIMES Feature Reporter
Black History Month is an appropriate time to profile Rev. H.K. Matthews as he has been an important part of the Civil Rights Movement from the early days. His honors have been many and his troubles have been large because of the way he believes.
He grew up under the care of his grandmother in Wilcox County. She was a country school teacher and even when he didn't want the best for himself, he says that she wanted the best for him. Life was a struggle on a schoolteacher's salary but somehow they managed. He attended the public schools of Wilcox County and graduated from Snowhill Institute in 1947 and went to Alabama A&M in Normal, Ala.
He stayed at college for three years and dropped out to join the military.
He stayed in the military for six years serving in Korea. At the end of that time he returned home to discover that little had changed.
That was when he got a job working at Ferris Warehouse in Pensacola. His uncles lived in Pensacola so he went there to get a job in 1955.
In 1960 he felt called into the ministry about the time he got involved in the Civil Rights Movement.
It was while he was in Pensacola that he got involved with the movement and as time went on he became involved throughout the country.
That was when he began to have trouble with the law. Because of his activities, he was arrested and thrown in jail over and over again.
After Rev. Dobbins left, Rev. Matthews inherited the position of leader of the movement. That made him the target of much harassment and charges brought against him. The one that sent him to prison was the felony charge of inciting a riot and extortion.
Governor Bob Graham eventually pardoned him because the facts just did not support the charges. Over the years he was actively involved in the movement for nonviolent change which Dr. Martin Luther King supported.
Rev. Matthews could not get a job as pastor in Pensacola so he was given three churches in the Evergreen area.
Rev. Matthews pastors Zion Fountain AME Zion Church on St. Nicholas Street and is one of the presiding elders of 15 other churches. He and his wife, who works at the hospital, have two children.
He is retired from his other job which was at Jefferson Davis Community College, first in financial aide, then with the prison education program and then as compliance director.
His has certainly been an extraordinary life, full of not only good things but some of the very worst.