Montgomery County Juvenile Judge Calvin Williams, who wasn’t born when 15-year-old Claudette Colvin boldly refused to give up her seat on the bus, expunged her arrest record 66 years later, clearing her name, according to Black Enterprise.
Colvin, 82, was arrested in 1955 when she refused to give up her seat to a White person on the bus in Montgomery, Ala. While many people associate Rosa Parks with her famous bus seat refusal, Colvin’s incident occurred nine months prior, leading up to the beginning of the civil rights movement, CNN reported.
As News Onyx previously reported, in October, the State of Alabama was looking to erase criminal records from civil rights activists Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, according to Civil Rights Attorney Fred Gray, who represented both Parks and King.
“We might just decide to file a lawsuit on his behalf to have that record expunged,” Gray said of King’s record, also noting the same for Parks and others.
Colvin, who had a conviction for non-compliance with racial segregation laws, reportedly assaulted an officer and was labeled unruly regarding her arrest. When she left Alabama to live in New York, she never received a notice citing her probation had ended.
After Colvin started the expungement process, she said her “mindset was on freedom.”
The civil rights pioneer believed it would be challenging to have portions of her record cleared, being that she assaulted a police officer.
“That would take a hundred years, maybe 200 years to go through the court system,” she said. “You could never finish it.”
However, on Nov. 24, Williams granted a petition to have Colvin’s criminal records erased, including all references of her arrest. He granted Colvin’s motion to seal for good cause and fairness for “what has since been recognized as a courageous act on her behalf and on behalf of a community of affected people,” Williams said.
After learning the surprising news, Colvin and Williams met each other for the first time during an exclusive interview with CBS News.
“I want to thank you for your courage, your courageous act. I want to, on behalf of myself and all of the judges in Montgomery, offer my apology for an injustice that was perpetrated upon you,” Williams said, sitting next to Colvin. “What Miss Colvin did has such great significance. And that’s because it holds such great symbolism.”