He was a Georgia congressman who courageously spoke out for racial equality at a time when few white leaders did.
Charles Weltner was born in 1927 in Atlanta and graduated from Columbia School of Law before a stint in the U.S. Army. As an Atlanta lawyer, he spoke out against racial violence in the wake of the Supreme Court’s 1954 Brown v. Board of Education ruling. In 1962, Weltner won election to Congress from Georgia’s 5th congressional district, and he was the first white Southern politician to condemn the 1963 Birmingham church bombings.
Weltner supported the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Running for re–election in 1966, Weltner resigned from Congress rather than support Lester Maddox for governor as demanded by the Georgia Democratic Party. Weltner’s response, “I cannot compromise with hate.”
Weltner later served on the Georgia Supreme Court and received a John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage award in 1991. Georgia lost one of her unsung heroes when Charles Weltner died in Atlanta on August 31, 1992, Today in Georgia History.