50 YEARS AGO — October 17th, 1966 — an unknown assailant murdered the Reverend Robert W. Spike in Columbus, Ohio. His son Paul Spike celebrates his father's life, work and social impact while exploring his mysterious death in the memoir, PHOTOGRAPHS OF MY FATHER.
Photographs of My Father:
A Lost Narrative from the Civil Rights Era
A Memoir By Paul Spike
Paul Auster, On His Friend's Compelling Memoir:
“The way Paul Spike’s narrative sings and howls and spins around in a fury of raw emotion is likewise unforgettable. So unforgettable that I felt my heart was breaking when I came to the end.”
LISTEN: Paul Spike talks with BBC Radio’s Libby Purveas about how his father’s fight for Civil Rights shaped his memoir.
Who was the Reverend Robert W. Spike?
After Reverend Spike’s death, Martin Luther King said, “He was one of those rare individuals who sought at every point to make religion relevant to the social issues of our time. He lifted religion from the stagnant arena of pious irrelevancies and sanctimonious trivialities...We will always remember his unswerving devotion to the legitimate aspirations of oppressed people for freedom and human dignity. It was my personal pleasure and sacred privilege to work closely with him in various undertakings.”
Yet, the federal, state or local governments spent little effort to find Robert Spike’s murderer. Instead, the Columbus police spun a story about a homosexual liaison gone awry. It was an easy answer. Especially in 1966. But colleagues in the Civil Rights movement believed it was a political assassination.
“We don’t believe these assassinations are an accident. We believe there is a conspiracy. Too many of our important leaders have been assassinated: John F. Kennedy, his brother Robert, Dr. King, Robert Spike ... ” —Hosea Williams, trusted member of Martin Luther King’s inner circle in the Southern Christian Leadership Conference
Robert Spike’s son Paul agrees. In the Afterword of this edition of Photographs of My Father, he cites new evidence about his father’s murder that he hopes will lead to a fresh investigation and a renewed effort to bring justice to one of the least known but most important American churchmen of the 20th century.
Now, 50 years after the murder of his father, Paul watches the police killings of black men in America and he wants to know what happened to the social conscience of the America’s mainstream churches. “Why have so many of the mainstream churches run away from my father’s living sacrifice? I feel they have betrayed his legacy.”
A Celebration of Rev. Spike’s Life
On Sunday, October 16th, 2016, at their 11 a.m. service, New York City’s Judson Memorial Church will celebrate the legacy of Robert Spike, who served as minister there from 1949 to 1955. All are welcome to attend. Read more on Rev. Spike’s contribution to the community.