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Civil rights movement drew couple

Perfect partnership

December 20, 2012
By RENEE PRUSI - Journal Staff Writer ( , The Mining Journal

MARQUETTE - When they came to her home in Marysville, Tenn., Pat Mair was alone with her two young sons.

Maryville was the community in which her husband, David, had answered the call to be pastor of a Presbyterian church.

"This was in the 1960s," David Mair said. "We were very involved in the civil rights movement. I was in Hattiseburg, Miss., working on a project sponsored by several denominations when it happened."

Article Photos

Pat, standing, and David Mair are seen in their Marquette home. The couple met during the 1950s when David was a young assistant minister at a church in Ohio which Pat visited. They married in 1956. (Journal photo by Renee Prusi)

It was a visit to the Mair home by the Ku Klux Klan.

"They burned two crosses in front of our house. Pat got the brunt of that," David said.

Pat vividly remembers her feelings on that night.

"I was more angry than anything," she said. "I decided I was not afraid, I was so angry at what was going on. I went out on the porch around midnight and I heard the horns. They were all standing there in their hoods and white uniforms. I would not let them think that I was afraid.

"I went in to get (her son) Andy. I wanted him to see this even if he is only 2," Pat said. "I stood there with him in my arms, shaking my fist at them. They kept calling me every name in the book. It didn't make any difference to them that I showed them I was not afraid.

"But still, I was terrified more than I thought. After they left, I went back in the house, tripped and broke my nose."

It was April 1964.

If had been the KKK's intent to intimidate the Mairs the cross burning instead solidified their resolve to stay involved in the civil rights movement. They continued to volunteer for the cause of racial equality while in Tennessee. And stayed with it when they moved to Michigan in the late 1960s.

"We were assigned to Palmer Park Presbyterian in Highland Park," David Mair said. "Detroit, of course, was the scene of riots in 1967 and after, we became involved in the effort to rehabilitate housing for people whose homes were damaged in the riot.

"But even before the riot, I had been in jail," he said.

A potential construction project was dislodging people from their homes, Mair said.

"There was a single black mother who needed temporary housing. I was part of the West Central Organization that appealed to the city to make some boarded up houses available because they were livable," he said. "These houses were targeted for a Wayne State (University) building project, which by the way never happened.

"The city's response to our request was to send in an employee to smash up the toilet to make the house uninhabitable. That raised the ire of some citizens and an interracial council I was part of decided to move in and stage a sit-in at the house. The police moved in with a paddy wagon and our group decided the best people to get arrested were ministers.

"I spent seven hours in a Detroit jail before being released to my own recognizance."

The charges were dropped but the efforts to make improvements in the city's climate continued.

"We had a march of ministers because things were not right in the city. We marched for the sake of the poor, but the city was not listening," Mair said. "Things erupted the next year with the riots of 1967."

The Mairs stayed involved in housing rehab in Detroit for the next decade. David's church merged with another congregation and his next call was to Ypsilanti, where he did campus ministry at Eastern Michigan University for the next seven years.

From there, the couple went to Hanover, in southern Indiana, where they stayed for almost 12 years.

In 1991, Pastor Mair felt the need for a change.

"I was getting restless in Hanover. My job was done and somebody else needed to get things moving. I put my name out there."

An interim pastor was needed in Marquette, so David Mair answered that call.

"I spent two years at that until they found a minister to install. Then I commuted to Munising for about 14 months to keep the ship afloat there," he said. "I finally retired and we stayed here in Marquette because we love it."

Renee Prusi can be contacted at 906-228-2500, ext. 253.



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