Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Family Retraces Selma Journey to Honor a Legacy of Social Justice; Charles Vatterott Jr. Led a Contingent to Support Marchers; Selma Anniversary

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Family Retraces Selma Journey to Honor a Legacy of Social Justice; Charles Vatterott Jr. Led a Contingent to Support Marchers; Selma Anniversary

Article excerpt

Vatterott family lore has it that the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. sought out St. Louis Archbishop Joseph Ritter after the "Bloody Sunday" attack of Selma demonstrators by Alabama state troopers on March 7, 1965.

A second march in response to the violence was planned for March 9, the civil rights leader told Ritter.

Could a contingent of St. Louis area faith-based leaders be mobilized on short notice to join the demonstration?

Ritter turned to his friend and neighbor, Charles F. Vatterott Jr.

Two mornings later, a DC-3 chartered by Vatterott departed St. Louis bound for Alabama with 50 Catholic, Protestant and Jewish adherents aboard. A second ecumenical flight, also organized by Vatterott, left almost simultaneously from Kansas City.

On Friday, 11 members of the extended Vatterott family retraced by car the journey taken by their father, grandfather and uncle 50 years ago.

And on Saturday they will join President Barack Obama in commemorating Bloody Sunday and two subsequent Selma marches that shifted the course of history in March 1965.

"It's a recommitment for us to work for interracial, social justice," said Claire Vatterott Hundelt, 58, one of 17 children raised in the family that was blended and then expanded after widower Charles Vatterott married widow Mary Patricia Dolan in 1948. He died in 1971, she in 1999.

Charles Vatterott traced his commitment to racial equality to a time when it wasn't popular for white men of status to publicly embrace social causes.

Vatterott, who never attended high school, owned a prominent area construction company. His son John founded Vatterott College in 1969.

In addition to supporting minority college students financially from 1943 forward, Vatterott provided affordable housing to low- income families, through his family foundation and businesses. The family furthers those and other charitable causes to this day. …

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