"My Soul Is Rested"
How I will miss the voice of Lawrence Guyot. He often called me at home when I worked for former Ward 1 Council man Frank Smith. Actually, our entire staff worked with legends like Mr. Guyot, a humble but determined man. Often, Mr. Guyot huddled with me to brainstorm in preparation for a workshop; or I would give him a ride home; we conducted radio interviews together; and celebrated the 30th anniversary of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) together in Mississippi. We will all, truly miss Lawrence Guyot in one way or another.
A memorial service will be held at Goodwill Baptist Church in Northwest on Saturday, Dec. 15 at 10 a.m., to honor the life and legacy of this unsung Civil Rights hero. Mr. Guyot died Nov. 28 at his home in Mount Rainier, Md. He was 73.
A reception in his honor will be held at the Civil War Museum in Northwest, following the memorial service at 1 p.m. The tribute will be hosted by Smith, the founder of the African American Civil War Museum. D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton will serve as mistress of ceremonies. The public is invited to attend.
In lieu of flowers, the family has requested donations be sent to GAP Child Care Center, a non-profit located in Northwest. Please mark all donations in memory of Lawrence Guyot.
Mr. Guyot pressed the Democratic Party for greater black participation in politics by serving as chairman of the integrated Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, formed to supplant the all-white state Democratic Party. It lost its challenge to the established Mississippi party at the Democratic National Convention in 1964, but its efforts are seen as paving the way for the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
A famous moment in the Civil Rights movement occurred after Fannie Lou Hamer and two civil rights workers were arrested for entering an area of a bus station reserved for whites in Winona, Miss., in June 1963. Mr. Guyot traveled to Winona to bail them out of jail.
Mr. Guyot was taken to a cell and beaten. The guards left the cell door open, with a knife in plain sight just beyond the cell door. The guards' intent was to entice him to escape, but he spotted two men lurking outside and stayed in his cell. "I didn't fall for that one," he is quoted as saying in the book, My Soul Is Rested: The Story of the Civil Rights Movement in the Deep South, written by Howell Raines and published in 1977. He was released shortly after Medgar Evers was assassinated.
Later in 1963, imprisoned at the infamous Mississippi penitentiary Parchman Farm, Mr. Guyot was beaten so badly, he went on a 17-day hunger strike to defy authorities. He lost 100 pounds.
Lawrence Thomas Guyot Jr. was born in Pass Christian, Miss., on July 17, 1939. He attended Tougaloo College in Jackson, Miss., and graduated with degrees in chemistry and biology in 1963.
Mr. Guyot said he was haunted by a conversation he had with Michael Schwerner in 1964, the civil rights worker murdered that year along with his colleagues Andrew Goodman and James Chaney. As the three civil rights workers prepared to drive to Mississippi from Ohio, Mr. Schwerner asked Mr. Guyot if it was safe to travel to Mississippi. Mr. Guyot said yes. Later, Mr. Guyot said that he always felt responsible for their deaths.
"I told him to go because I thought there was so much publicity that nothing could happen," Mr. Guyot said in an interview with The Sun Herald newspaper in Biloxi, Miss. "I was absolutely wrong."
A Rutgers University law school graduate, Mr. Guyot came to Washington in the 1960s and worked on Marion Barry's mayoral campaign in the late 1970s – and the rest is history.
He is survived by his wife of 47 years, the former Monica Klein; daughter Julie, his son, Lawrence III; and four grandchildren.
Farewell, old friend.