Ken Hare In Depth: Community loses a groundbreaker in Arlam Carr

Arlam Carr
Arlam Carr

MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - Instead of the usual politics and government, I hope readers will bear with me in writing about a more personal issue: The loss of someone who really made a difference in his community -- Arlam Carr Jr.

WSFA's news team -- a team in which he played a key role much of his adult life -- will cover the news aspect of Arlam's life: The fact that he broke the color barrier in Montgomery's public high schools, and that his name was on the lawsuit that established once and for all that the city's public schools would desegregate.

So instead of recounting his impact as a groundbreaker for diversity, allow me to take a more personal tack.

I first knew Arlam through his mother, the late Johnnie Carr, who was an icon of the civil rights movement in Montgomery. She followed in the footsteps of the late Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.,  serving as the long-time president of the Montgomery Improvement Association that King led during the Montgomery Bus Boycott.

Many years ago Mrs. Carr and I served as co-chairs together of One Montgomery, a group that still meets today to promote harmony across racial lines. It was a relationship that I treasure to this day.

But it was through Leadership Montgomery that I came to know Arlam Jr. more personally. We were both members of Class IV of Leadership Montgomery, and it was there that I came to know the man who was simultaneously one of the most gentle people I know and one of the toughest as well.

Arlam was only in his early teens when he enrolled at then-all-white Lanier High School, so readers can imagine how tough he had to be to endure the bitter recriminations thrown his way. But when I asked him about those days Arlam usually focused on the good side -- those in the community who supported him, those who extended a helping hand. That says a lot about his outlook on life.

In discussing racial issues, Arlam always tried to look first at how far the community has come. But he was no Pollyanna -- he realized and spoke out about the racial hurdles that still remained to be crossed.

In that regard, Arlam was a lot like his mother. Both were soft-spoken, and both preferred to emphasize the positive. But when it came to discussing injustices in the community, you could hear and feel the steel in their voices. Partly because they were usually so soft spoken, when they did speak out strongly on issues people could not help but pay attention.

A couple of things came through any time you spent time with Arlam. He loved his work at WSFA. He loved his community. He loved and doted on his family. And he loved God. I was there when he was ordained as a deacon in his church, and he was close to bursting with the justifiable pride he took in that honor.

After his mother's passing, Arlam and I did not stay in contact as much as we should have, and that was my loss. Anytime we had even a brief conversation, I left it feeling better about life. Arlam could have that kind of impact on you.

Arlam was truly a groundbreaker in this community. He made a real difference, and not just in what he did as a teen, but also through his work in television and through community organizations and his church. He will be missed.

Ken Hare was a longtime Alabama newspaper editorial writer and editorial page editor who now writes a regular column for WSFA's web site. Email him at

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