Born: September 22, 1928, in Uniontown, Pennsylvania. Grew up in Massillon, Ohio. Son and grandson of Methodist ministers. Joined CORE [Congress of Racial Equality] in 1948, his freshman year at Baldwin Wallace College in Berea, Ohio. Withdrew his draft registration in 1949, later served 13 months in federal prison. Was a missionary to India 1953–56.
Then: Methodist minister and divinity student in Nashville; in 1959 began a weekly nonviolence workshop, from which emerged the Nashville Student Movement and, in large part, SNCC [Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee]. Expelled from Vanderbilt University Divinity School in 1960 for his activities as a leader of the Nashville sit-ins.