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Civil Rights Icons, Richmond 34, Honored at Capitol

Steve Helber



In 1960 a group of teenagers from Virginia Union University staged a sit-in at a downtown Richmond department store. Thirty-four of them were arrested. The group was honored Friday and some had their records finally expunged.


Ford Tucker Johnson Jr. always wore his arrest record as a badge of honor.

“Whenever I would apply for something and fill out the application it would always ask me ‘Do you have a police record, were you ever arrested?’ And I would put yes,” Johnson said. “And it would always provoke these great conversations.”

He’d tell the story of the work he, and others, did in ultimately helping to desegregate downtown Richmond.  Now, almost sixty years later, Johnson’s arrest is finally being cleared from his record.

At a ceremony at Virginia Union University a handful of the original 34 were celebrated, after meeting privately with the Governor in the morning. Elizabeth Johnson Rice has worked for years to get their story told.

“I’ve been struggling for 59 years today we’ll be recognized,” Johnson Rice said.

Anderson Franklin remembers how worried his mother was when he went downtown to protest. He says if only she and his father could see him today.

“I know he would be very proud. And I think probably a little bit amazed at what his son has done,” he said.

The group was given a grand send off from Virginia Union, then went downtown to the John Marshall courthouse for their expungement hearing.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.

Mallory Noe-Payne is a Radio IQ reporter based in Richmond.