Local Civil Rights Icon William Harvey Zeigler Has Passed Away at 102

From www.montgomerycountymd.gov:

He was born March 4, 1920, the 6th of 13 children, 9 girls and 4 boys. A descendent from slaves in Montgomery County, Zeigler was reared in the racially divisive farm town of Damascus, Maryland. His grandfather escaped slavery in South Carolina in the 1860s through the Underground Railroad. His grandfather made his way to Damascus, where he helped build Friendship United Methodist, the church Zeigler continues to attend.

Zeigler attended Lincoln High School, an all-black school in Rockville. From the early years, 1920 to 1946, he experienced discrimination that exemplified flagrant violations of one’s rights. He was not allowed to eat at food counters, sit at the soda fountains, attend theaters, bowling alleys, public schools, doctor’s offices or community clubs. What services he did receive came from the back door of these establishments.

Zeigler suffered many racial conflicts under General Mark Clark who was his commanding officer for the European Theater Operation (ETO). This company was labeled the fifth army that was associated to the ETO. On Dec 22, 1941, on their way to South Carolina to report for training he and the black squad were stopped at Union Station, Washington D.C, and they were refused service at the lunch counter.

When Zeigler returned to Maryland at the age of 25, he joined the NAACP in Montgomery County, where he worked as a youth director to help young African Americans. Ahead of the historic 1963 March on Washington, Zeigler organized a group from Montgomery County to attend. Zeigler also founded an AMVETS chapter in Frederick, Maryland. Zeigler’s lifetime of service has earned him several awards, including induction into the Motngomery County Human Rights Hall of Fame.

On Wednesday, Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich tweeted, “I am saddened to learn of the death of Harvey Zeigler. A World War II Veteran and champion for civil rights in Montgomery County, he spent his life fighting for others. We were fortunate to have him with us for 102 years and it was truly an honor to call him a friend.”

The Montgomery County Council released the following statement on the passing of William Harvey Zeigler:

Council President Gabe Albornoz made the following statement on behalf of the Montgomery County Council about the passing of William Harvey Zeigler. 

“The entire Council family is deeply saddened to learn about the passing of William Harvey Zeigler. We extend our heartfelt condolences to the Zeigler family and all of his friends in Damascus and across our community.

“Montgomery County has lost a civil and human rights trailblazer who lived his values through a lifetime of public service, which began in the U.S. Army during World War II. After returning home, he joined the Montgomery County Chapter of the NAACP and worked actively to fight for civil and human rights. He took action and organized protests that resulted in changing discriminatory loan policies at local banks and fought for sensitivity training and equal employment opportunities in the U.S. government and in Montgomery County Public Schools.

“Mr. Zeigler served on numerous committees, board and panels to improve the quality of life in Montgomery County and is a member of Montgomery County’s Human Rights Hall of Fame. In addition, Montgomery County’s Humanitarian of the Year Award was renamed as the Inez Zeigler McAbee and William Harvey Zeigler Humanitarian Award to honor human rights leaders, and in Dec. 2001, Mr. Zeigler received the award.

“He always made time to mentor others and never stopped giving back. Just last year, as a centenarian, Mr. Zeigler participated in Montgomery County’s efforts to get community members vaccinated to protect themselves against COVID-19.

“We are grateful for the memories we made with our friend Harvey, as well as the guidance and wisdom that he shared with us on pursuing racial equity and social justice. William Harvey Zeigler leaves a lasting legacy in our community that will always be remembered. May he rest in peace and power.”

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Contact: Elisenda Sola-Sole, Festival Director

[email protected]

301-949-9416 (text preferred)

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