Matthews to get honorary degree

Published 7:26 pm Wednesday, December 5, 2007

By Staff
Brewton resident the Rev. H.K. Matthews will be honored this month with an honorary doctorate from the University of West Florida.
Matthews, a leader in the Civil Rights movement in northwest Florida in the 1960s and 1970s, will also be the speaker at UWF's commencement ceremonies Dec. 15 at the Pensacola Civic Center. The undergraduate ceremony, for students earning bachelor's degress, will be held at 9 a.m. The graduate ceremony, for students earning master's, specialist's and doctoral degrees, will be held at 2:30 p.m.
Also this month, UWF will host a book signing for Matthews at the Museum of Commerce in Historic Pensacola Village. The event, which is free and open to the public, will be held from 5 to 6 p.m. and 8 to 9 p.m. Thursday.
Matthews will sign copies of his book “Victory After the Fall,” which will also be available for purchase at the event.
Matthews participated in the Selma to Montgomery march and served in many field positions for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, founded by Martin Luther King Jr., as well as the NAACP in Florida, Alabama and Mississippi. He also led the movement to desegregate downtown Pensacola businesses and restaurants.
After attending Alabama A&M University and serving in the Korean War, Matthews became a leader in the Civil Rights movement in northwest Florida and south Alabama. During the height of his activism, he was jailed 35 times in the early 1960s for staging protest demonstrations for civil rights.
He was president of the Pensacola Council of Ministers and led successful protests which resulted in the desegregation of bowling alleys and getting blacks hired at the Southern Bell Telephone Co., West Pensacola Bank and Sacred Heart Hospital.
Because of his civil rights activities, Matthews was unable to gain employment and left Pensacola in 1977. He returned to his home state of Alabama, where he was hired at Jefferson Davis Community College. He also serves as pastor of a local Methodist congregation, a position he has held for 32 years. Matthews was appointed presiding elder of the South Alabama Conference of African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church.
During the past five years, Matthews has received a number of honors and accolades for his contributions to the civil rights movement. In 2006, the Pensacola City Council named a park after Matthews on 12th Avenue in Pensacola, and a commemorative event was held in February for Pensacola citizens to show their appreciation for Matthews' lifetime of accomplishments.

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