Irene Morgan Kirkaldy, who inspired first Freedom Ride, dies at 90

GLOUCESTER, Va. – Irene Morgan Kirkaldy, a black woman whose refusal to give up her bus seat to white passengers led to a landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision more than a decade before Rosa Parks gained recognition for doing the same, has died at 90.

Kirkaldy died Friday at her daughter’s home, said Fred Carter, director of Carter Funeral Home in Newport News.

Kirkaldy, born Irene Morgan in Baltimore in 1917, was arrested in 1944 for refusing to give up her seat on a Greyhound bus heading from Gloucester to Baltimore, and for resisting arrest.

Her case was appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court by an NAACP lawyer named Thurgood Marshall, who later became the first black justice on the high court.

The Supreme Court held in June 1946 that Virginia law requiring the races to be separated on interstate buses was an invalid interference in interstate commerce.

At the time, the case received little attention, and not all bus companies complied with the ruling at first, but it paved the way for civil rights victories to come, including Parks’ famous stand on a local bus in Montgomery, Ala., in 1955.

Kirkaldy also inspired the first Freedom Ride in 1947, when 16 civil rights activists rode buses and trains through the South to test the Supreme Court decision.

In 2001, President Bill Clinton awarded her the Presidential Citizens Medal – the second-highest civilian honor in the United States.

Talk to us

More in Local News

A 1.2-mile stretch of 236th Street NE near Arlington will be fully closed May 31 through Sept. 2 for a road project. (Stillaguamish Tribe of Indians)
Months-long closure ahead for 236th Street NE near Arlington

The Stillaguamish Tribe of Indians is widening lanes, adding a separated shared path and improving wildlife crossings.

Nate Nehring (left) and Sam Low.
Snohomish County’s LGBTQ Pride proclamation gets no GOP support

Councilmember Nate Nehring said it would violate his “personal conscience” by “celebrating particular lifestyles.”

Denny’s employee hospitalized after shooting south of Everett

A group of people was asked to leave. Someone fired a gun. A suspect was arrested.

Everett
2 teens arrested after Everett shooting, 100 mph chase

A young man was shot in the leg at an apartment near Voyager Middle School, where kids were being released for the day.

Everett
Pair identified in apparent murder-suicide in Everett

Police believe a man killed a woman, then himself. No arrests were made. No suspects were believed to be at large.

Law enforcement stand guard at the front driveway to Cascade High School as multiple agencies attempt to track down a suspect who reportedly had a firearm near campus Friday, May 27, 2022, in Everett, Washington. Dozens of concerned family members arrived to the school and stood along Casino Road waiting to find out what was happening. An airsoft pistol was recovered during a security sweep. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Apparent threat at Cascade High turned out to be airsoft gun

Two Everett schools went into lockdown Friday as police conducted security sweeps of their campuses.

Hydraulic fluid from a Waste Management garbage truck damaged roads in Mountlake Terrace June 23, 2021. The company hired crews to put absorbent material on the fluid and swept it, but several areas need to be repaired this year. (Mountlake Terrace)
Truck leak prompts 2 miles of road work in Mountlake Terrace

About 50 gallons of hydraulic fluid spilled from a Waste Management garbage truck last June.

Everett
Homicide suspect arrested in separate murder-for-hire sting

New court papers connect Selvin Rosales-Sevilla, of Mountlake Terrace, to the killing of Kevin Nieto Mejia at Ebey Island.

Logo for news use featuring Snohomish County, Washington. 220118
Bird flu comes to Snohomish County, via backyard flock

Where exactly was not immediately released. But flock owners should be vigilant to prevent further spread of the virus.

Most Read