Victoria's 'small-town values' shape civil rights leader's life (Video)

Jan. 24, 2013 at 6 p.m.
Updated Jan. 24, 2013 at 7:25 p.m.

University of Houston-Victoria student Jose Muniz, 19, knew there were leaders in the civil rights movement -- but didn't know one of them was a white woman.

"It completely opened my eyes," said the 19-year-old freshman. "I had no idea there was a female nonetheless."

He was one of dozens of people on hand to hear about the life of Sandra "Casey" Hayden from author and Virginia State University professor Wesley Hogan at the University of Houston-Victoria. The author came to talk about one of Victoria's unknown characters during the civil rights movement.

"Most people don't know about civil rights," said Hogan. "It's a real loss you don't know about the ordinary people" who were involved, she said.

Hayden was unable to attend the event because of health reasons. Before starting her talk, Hogan made people sitting in the first two rows sit on the floor based on the months they were born. This was an example of how equal rights were not given to everyone to sit freely in the 1950s.

During the talk, Hogan spoke about how learning about segregation at Patti Welder High School, now a middle school, shaped Hayden's life. Hayden didn't accept segregation, and in college, she joined groups such as the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee that believed in equality for all.

"She was brought into the (civil rights) movement through a series of small town values," said Hogan. "She lived these beliefs through hard work in the movement."

Hogan admits that Hayden's life is complex and hopes to flesh out her story in a book in the future. But she does believe that Hayden is a role model for others who want to achieve goals in life.

Listening in the audience was Geraldine Williams, 71, of Seadrift. She recalled that times were difficult in the 1960s and was glad that people such as Hayden existed.

"She represents the era I grew up in," she said, when topics such as race "needed to be addressed openly."



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