Jim Letherer
James M. Letherer

(1933-12-30)December 30, 1933
DiedDecember 18, 2001(2001-12-18) (aged 67)
Saginaw, Michigan
OccupationSettlement house worker
Known forActive work in civil rights

James M. Letherer (December 30, 1933 – December 18, 2001), born and died in Saginaw, Michigan,[1][2] better known as Jim Letherer, was an American civil rights activist.[3][4] He walked on crutches the entire 54 miles of the 1965 Selma to Montgomery march for voting rights, and in 1966 walked with Martin Luther King Jr. in James Meredith's Mississippi March Against Fear.[3][5] Letherer lost his right leg to cancer when he was ten years old.[6][7] Letherer has received honors by the Selma to Montgomery Interpretive Center Museum in Alabama, which hosts a life-size statue of him.

With a big heart and a tenacious spirit, he trooped with King and fellow marchers in many a Deep South protest despite not having his right leg from birth. During the 1965 Selma to Montgomery march, Letherer – who used crutches – helped keep spirits high by unswervingly shouting out cadence for his remaining leg, by chanting, "Left, left, left!"[8]

He received mention and a verse in a book by Pete Seeger:

There was a guy named Jim Letherer who had one leg. He went all the way. There was a picture of us in the N. Y. Times and it said something about the last leg of the march. Jim said, "Hey Len, make me a verse."

Jim Letherer's leg got left
But he's still in the fight.
Been walking day and night,
Jim's left leg is all right.

Letherer was involved with a march to aid cancer research in 1984,[10][11] and in 1985 he joined the 20-year reunion of the Selma to Montgomery march participants in Selma, Alabama.[12]


  1. ^ "James M. Letherer". AncientFaces. Archived from the original on 22 March 2015.
  2. ^ "Social Security Death Index (SSDI) Death Record". Retrieved 2015-03-24.
  3. ^ a b "Letherer, Jim, 1933-2001". University System of Georgia Civil Rights Digital Library. Retrieved 21 March 2015.
  4. ^ "Letter From Jim Letherer Regarding Proposed March". The King Center. Retrieved 21 March 2015.
  5. ^ Adler, Renata (10 April 1965). "Letter from Selma". The New Yorker. Retrieved 21 March 2015.
  6. ^ Hirsley, Michael (4 March 1985). "20 Years Later, The Law Joins Marchers In Selma". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 21 March 2015.
  7. ^ Dierenfield, Bruce J. (2013). The Civil Rights Movement. Routledge. pp. 194–195. ISBN 9781317863717. Jim Letherer, a one-legged, husky white laborer from Saginaw, Michigan, trudged the entire way on crutches.
  8. ^ Freeling, Isa (26 February 2015). "BLACK HISTORY MONTH 2015: Whites in the Civil Rights Movement who fought, and sometimes, died for the cause". New York Daily News. Retrieved 2015-03-23.
  9. ^ Seeger, Pete; Reiser, Bob (15 June 2009). Everybody Says Freedom: A History of the Civil Rights Movement in Songs and Pictures. W. W. Norton & Company. ISBN 978-0393306040.
  10. ^ Hembree, Linda (24 May 1984). "Miracle Marathon: Raleigh Man Tries to Walk Cross Country for Cancer". Spartanburg Herald-Journal. Retrieved 2015-03-23.
  11. ^ Weeks, Todd (25 May 1984). "Jim Letherer chasing dream". The Times-News. Retrieved 21 March 2015.
  12. ^ Hirsley, Michael (4 March 1985). "20 Years Later, The Law Joins Marchers In Selma". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 2015-03-23.