NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ – The Rev. Gilbert “Gil” Caldwell, who took part in the Bloody Sunday march on Selma and the March on Washington, D.C. during a lifetime dedicated to civil rights activism and social justice, has died.
He was 86.
Mr. Caldwell’s passing on Friday was confirmed to TAPinto New Brunswick by his son, Dale Caldwell, the vice president of the New Brunswick Board of Education.
Mr. Caldwell and his wife, Grace, had come to live here with their son during the past several months.
Before that, Mr. Caldwell, a former minister in the United Methodist Church, spent more than a decade in Asbury Park.
Although he once referred to himself in a 2015 Washington Post story as “a foot soldier” in the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, he was often front and center as history unfolded.
Mr. Caldwell often marched with the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. and followed him to Washington in 1963 for his iconic “I Have a Dream” speech.
Two years later, on March 7, 1965, 600 protestors en route to Montgomery in the name of voting rights were violently attacked by Alabama state troopers while crossing the Edmund Pettus Bridge. Bloody Sunday, as it has become known, was led by another Civil Rights icon who passed away earlier this year, John Lewis.
A month later, Mr. Caldwell was marching with King to protest against segregation in Boston schools. Caldwell, who graduated from the Boston University School of Theology in 1958, is seen shoulder to shoulder with King in a black and white photo published by the Boston College alumni magazine in 2015.
If his early life centered around Civil Rights, his later life focused on LGBTQ rights. Drawing a parallel between the two movements, he became fond of quoting King: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
In a 2014 essay about officiating his first same-sex marriage, Mr. Caldwell said that he was arrested twice along with others at the Cleveland General Conference in 2000 for what he called “civil disobedience against the oppressive, anti-gay language and legislation of The United Methodist Church.”
In his adopted home of Asbury Park, he spent years pushing for the Black church and clergy to be more open to the LGBTQ community, according to an Asbury Park Press report of his death.