Reverend Joseph Ellwanger

Joseph Ellwanger, a Lutheran minister, became pastor of St. Paul Lutheran Church in Birmingham, Alabama in 1958. While in Birmingham, Ellwanger led the interracial Birmingham Council on Human Relations and the Concerned White Citizens of Alabama. He was the pastor of Cross Lutheran Church for 34 years before his retirement in 2001. Currently, Ellwanger works for WISDOM, a faith-based affiliation of groups working for social causes in southeast Wisconsin.

Civil Rights Era

The Reverend Joseph Ellwanger was one of the few white Southern ministers involved in civil rights work. Ellwanger worked with Martin Luther King, Jr. to plan the Birmingham demonstrations. On the Sunday when the 16th Street Church in Birmingham was bombed, Ellwanger was giving a service in his church a mile down the road. Denise McNair, one of the children who died in the bombing, was the daughter of one of his parishioners and Ellwanger spoke at the funeral.

Ellwanger was the president of The Birmingham Council on Human Relations, which provided behind-the-scenes support for civil rights work. On Saturday, March 6, 1965, Ellwanger organized a march in Selma, Alabama to support voting rights. He and 72 white Alabamans who wanted to openly support voting rights marched to the courthouse steps in Selma, where they were confronted by hostile whites singing "Dixie." They came and left without any violence that day, and Ellwanger himself returned to march in Selma on "Turnaround Tuesday."


Information for this biography was gathered from the following sources:

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