Mary Beth Tinker of the famous Tinker v. DesMoines Supreme Court case visited McComb during her Tinker Tour. Close to 50 years ago at age 13, Tinker was one of a group of students who were suspended from school because they wore simple black armbands to school to mourn the dead in Vietnam.
Four years later, following heated school board meetings, death threats to her family, and two lower federal court cases — the United States Supreme Court ruled in a landmark decision in favor of First Amendment rights for students. The Tinker ruling is still cited in nearly every student First Amendment case and almost all U.S. civics and history textbooks.
This year Tinker and attorney Mike Hiestand launched a “Tinker Tour” across the country to promote youth voices, free speech, and a free press.
As Tinker explains, “The goal of the Tinker Tour is to bring real-life civics lessons to schools and communities through my story and those of other young people.”
The students in McComb Legacies spoke with Tinker during the summer institute and invited her make McComb a stop on her national Tinker Tour. It ended up being the only stop in Mississippi.
The Tinker Tour blog reported on the visit:
The Civil Rights movement continues.
As Mary Beth tells students, 49 years ago — during the “Freedom Summer” of 1964 — her mom and dad were made to lie flat in the floor of a car as they traveled in rural Mississippi, to escape detection and avoid trouble as they worked to help register black voters in the state.
Now, Mary Beth could ride in a car with African Americans, as she did with Mrs. Jackie Martin and Mrs. Patsy Butler, who treated her to an amazing civil rights tour of McComb. And yesterday, driving into McComb in our hot pink, peace-sign covered Tinker Tour bus, we were greeted by kind hosts and townspeople. Continue reading.
Following the tour, Mary Beth spoke with students in the high school auditorium. She addressed the history of her case, including the fact that the precedent for her case is in Mississippi in Burnside v. Byars, a ruling about the right of students to wear a SNCC voting rights button.