Thelma Glass, the last surviving member of a black women’s group that in 1955 organized a yearlong bus boycott in Montgomery, Ala., after the arrest of Rosa Parks for refusing to give up her seat on a bus to a white man, died on Tuesday. She was 96.
Ms. Glass, a professor of geography at Alabama State University, was the secretary of the Women’s Political Council, which leapt to action within hours of Ms. Parks’s arrest on Dec. 1, 1955. The women’s group, realizing that three-quarters of the bus riders in Montgomery were black, called on blacks to boycott the buses to put pressure on the city, the state and the bus company to stop forcing them to ride in the back and surrender their seats to white passengers.
The group urged people to walk or car-pool instead of taking the bus, and Ms. Glass was among those who drove others to work and helped pass out fliers to alert the community to the boycott.
By Monday, Dec. 5, the buses were empty.
“When the first bus came by with nobody on it, I couldn’t believe it,” Ms. Glass told The Montgomery Advertiser in 2005. As bus after bus rumbled past without a soul on board, she grew more and more delighted. “It’s a feeling of such happiness and accomplishment that you just can’t quite explain,” she said.
The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. helped lead the boycott, and thousands participated. For the transit system, it was a swift kick in the pocketbook. Whites retaliated, sometimes with violence, sometimes with arrests and fines for offenses like conspiring to interfere with a business. Dr. King was jailed. The civil rights movement was energized.
“We didn’t have time to sit still and be scared,” Ms. Glass said.