More than 50 years ago, Rip Patton’s world changed. He started attending nonviolence workshops in Nashville and learned how to endure abuse during the civil rights movement without fighting back. Rip became a Freedom Rider, part of the movement that ended an era of legalized segregation in the South.
Now, five decades later, he looks back on his role as a “disrupter” — sitting, standing and singing to make major societal change.
Earnest “Rip” Patton is a lifelong Nashvillian and activist. He joined the Freedom Riders in 1961 as a 21-year-old Tennessee State University student, after participating in the sit-ins that successfully desegregated the lunch counters in downtown Nashville. As a Freedom Rider — riding south from Nashville to protest segregated bus stations, despite violent opposition — he was arrested and sent to the Mississippi State Penitentiary when his Greyhound bus reached Jackson. Rip is now a frequent public speaker, including an appearance on Oprah in 2011.