Dr.  Ernest Patton, Jr.

Obituary of Dr. Ernest Rip Patton, Jr.

Ernest “Rip” Patton, a member of the Nashville Freedom Riders and civil rights leader, has died, the Freedom Rides Museum announced. He was 81. Patton participated in the downtown Nashville civil rights sit-ins in 1960, a movement that eventually led to the desegregation of the city’s lunch counters and other public spaces. A year later, he was among the first wave of Freedom Riders to arrive in Jackson, Mississippi, on a Greyhound bus intent on forcing the desegregation of interstate transportation facilities, said Dorothy Walker, director of the Montgomery, Alabama-based museum. “He felt like what happened in Nashville in 1960 came together in a divine way. There was divine inspiration and it was not happenstance,” Walker said in a Wednesday phone interview. “It was the prelude to the Freedom Riders.” Patton was promptly arrested upon arriving in Jackson and spent 40 days at the infamous Mississippi State Penitentiary, also called Parchman Prison Farm, known for its brutal conditions. A talented baritone and drum major, Patton and his fellow Freedom Riders would regularly sing during their lockup, causing the prison guards to confiscate their mattresses, and at times, turn off the water in their cells. “He understood the power of music in the movement,” Walker said. “His thing was, ‘Let’s just keep the music going.’” The Freedom Rides Movement of 1961 sparked bombings and beatings by white mobs, as well as imprisonment for many of the Black and white riders. Yet the movement also brought about the eventual end of segregated transportation in the South. More than 400 people, ranging in age from 14 to 61, participated in the Freedom Rides. In June, July, August and September of 1961, more than 60 Freedom Riders traveled across the South, most of which ended in Mississippi. Upon his release from prison, Patton and 13 other students were expelled from Tennessee A&I — now Tennessee State University. The school eventually granted them honorary doctoral degrees 47 years later, in 2008. Patton attended nonviolence workshops led by civil rights champion the Rev. James Lawson, where he was joined by fellow high-profile leaders such as Diane Nash, John Lewis and C.T. Vivian. He later went on to be a truck driver and jazz musician, while also remaining a vocal advocate and educator in the civil rights movement. “In the decades after the movement, Rip spent hours sitting with young people in Nashville’s Civil Rights Room — questioning them, challenging them, and urging them forward in their own work,” Nashville Mayor John Cooper said in a tweet. “Rip’s march was steady, and his call was clear, until the end. Dr. Ernest "Rip" Patton is survived by son, Michael (Bernadette) Patton; grandchildren, Alyxa Mae and Dante' Andrew Patton; niece, Michelle (James) Holt; nephew, Charles (Debra) Patton; and other relatives and friends. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made in memory of Dr. Ernest "Rip" Patton, Jr. to the following: Dr. Rip "20890" Scholarship Fund c/o Gordon UM Church 2234 Herman Street Nashville, TN 37208 Please join us for the Service of Committal and Interment for Dr. Ernest Rip Patton on Tuesday, September 7, 2021. Service will be available for viewing virtually via Zoom on Tuesday, September 7, 2021 beginning at 8:45 a.m. Zoom link and login details provided below: Join Zoom Meeting https://us02web.zoom.us/j/83139881882?pwd=YXpCNVRHc1FFdzhhNVFucnNTQVZMdz09 Meeting ID: 831 3988 1882 Passcode: 053992 One tap mobile +13126266799,,83139881882#,,,,*053992# US (Chicago) +19292056099,,83139881882#,,,,*053992# US (New York)
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Thursday
2
September

Public Viewing

2:00 pm - 6:00 pm
Thursday, September 2, 2021
Gordon Memorial United Methodist Church
2334 Herman St.
Nashville, Tennessee, United States
MASK must be worn at all times
Friday
3
September

Family Visitation

11:00 am - 12:00 pm
Friday, September 3, 2021
Gordon Memorial United Methodist Church
2334 Herman St.
Nashville, Tennessee, United States
MASK must be worn at all times
Friday
3
September

Celebration of Life

12:00 pm
Friday, September 3, 2021
Gordon Memorial United Methodist Church
2334 Herman St.
Nashville, Tennessee, United States
MASK must be worn at all times
Tuesday
7
September

Burial

9:00 am
Tuesday, September 7, 2021
Hills of Calvary Memorial Park
Ashland City Highway
Nashville, Tennessee, United States
MASK must be worn
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