Anthony Hodge to walk course of civil rights march

Pastor Anthony Hodge, founder of Impact Ministry in Winter Garden, will honor those who fought for civil rights by walking 54 miles in their shoes.

Pastor Anthony Hodge calls his upcoming 54-mile walk from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, a personal journey.
Pastor Anthony Hodge calls his upcoming 54-mile walk from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, a personal journey.
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Anthony Hodge has felt “the call” many times. The call to ministry, the call to help the residents in his childhood neighborhood of east Winter Garden — and now the call to honor the men and women who fought to give him the basic rights that weren’t always available to people of color.

Hodge is on a one-man quest — what he calls a personal journey — to walk the same 54-mile route a large group of citizens walked this month 57 years ago.

He is calling his solo journey “Remembering Bloody Sunday — And So We Walk,” and he will walk alone along U.S. Route 80 from Selma, Alabama, to the state capital of Montgomery. This is the historic route taken in March 1965 by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as he led thousands of people in a march for voting rights for black citizens.

The route Anthony Hodge will take on his 54-mile walk is mapped out on the back of his T-shirt.
The route Anthony Hodge will take on his 54-mile walk is mapped out on the back of his T-shirt.

“Folks want to know, ‘What are you walking for?’” Hodge said. “It’s to express what happens when people of good will come together, because in Selma, Alabama, in March 1965, there were over 8,000 (people) of different faith and race that came together to march in the walk from Selma to Montgomery. … What happens when people of good will come together, black, white, whatever. … it generates a power that turns the whole nation to a new course.

“It’s not about the black race or the white race but the human race,” Hodge said.



Hodge has studied black history and the civil rights movement, and he said he began to learn things about himself and about people.

“The things that (have) taken place in our history, it reveals a lot about myself, because it allows me to see if I’m a racist,” he said. “I realized that I wasn’t a racist, but there have been times in my life, especially being born here in the South. In 1973, I was 12 and headed to high school. I left Maxey Elementary, an all-black elementary school. I get off the bus, and there’s a crowd of black people over here and a crowd of white people over here. And they come together, not to sing, but for a race riot. I was 12 years old.”

It was eye-opening for Hodge to witness the tension between the races.

“You (were) taught to kind of hate white people — but because of my mother, who never harbored any hatred, I never harbored any,” he said. “But then my study of history and, especially, black history — I can see the hatred in people. Not just white people but black people as well.”

Something happened to that little boy during his teenage years, and he turned to drugs, cruising the streets near his home looking to buy, sell or use cocaine. From the ages of 17 to 41, Hodge was jailed 23 times and imprisoned five times.
It was in a state prison in 2000 that he allowed God and His healing hand into his life. Today, Hodge is drug-free and known as Pastor Anthony Hodge, creator of Finding the Lost Sheep Ministry and, in more recent years, Impact Ministry.



Hodge, now 61, said he woke up one morning last fall and told his wife he was going to walk from their home in Mascotte to Winter Garden. And so he walked. It took him more than seven hours to cover 24 miles.

Two months later, he walked the 40 miles between Mascotte and Brooksville in 20 hours.

With his orange “And so we walk” T-shirt and his orange sneakers, he feels he’s ready to tackle 54 miles. As he walks, he said, he will remember the lives lost in March 1965. He will think of Viola Liuzzo, the only white woman killed in the civil rights movement, shot in the face by the Ku Klux Klan as she drove march participants back to Selma; he will think of James Reeb, a white Unitarian pastor who answered the call for justice and was attacked and killed coming out of a restaurant in Selma; and he will think of Jimmie Lee Jackson, a young, black man who was killed by a sniper during a peaceful demonstration.

The journey will be spread out over five days, and Hodge will periodically go live on Facebook to update friends and family on his progress and to share specific landmarks along the way. The route has been designated a national historic trail. He said the only sign he will have with him is the T-shirt that reads “And so we walk.”

When he reaches the capital, Hodge will recite “Our God is Marching On,” one of many King speeches he has memorized, for everyone present and on Facebook Live to hear.

“Only when we build that relationship with Jesus Christ are we able to see that truth — the truth about myself and how messed up I am,” Hodge said. “Because of His grace and mercy, I’m here today.”

He said he isn’t doing this for any publicity; it’s purely God at work.

“It’s God reflecting on me … how I can make a difference in all lives, not just black people,” he said. “One of the most important things in my teaching … is to not build any hatred. That’s stressed: It’s not for you to hate. If you hate, it blinds you and you cannot see God moving when you’re blind.”



The historic 54-mile march from Selma to the state capital of Montgomery was part of a series of civil rights protests in Alabama in 1965. The march, and Martin Luther King Jr.’s participation in it, raised awareness of the difficulties faced by black voters and the need for a national Voting Rights Act.

King and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference made Selma the focus of a black voter registration campaign; just 2% of Selma’s eligible black voters were registered to vote.

A protest march was organized by King and the SCLC after a young, black demonstrator, Jimmie Lee Jackson, was shot and killed during a peaceful gathering.

A group of 600 people set out from Selma March 7, a day that would come to be known as Bloody Sunday. The marchers reached the Edmund Pettis Bridge before being beaten by Alabama state troopers and forced back to Selma.

On March 9, King led more than 2,000 marchers across the bridge but found Highway 80 blocked again by state troopers. That night, a group of segregationists beat and killed a protester, James Reeb, a young, white minister.

About 2,000 people marched from Selma March 21. After walking close to 12 hours a day and sleeping in fields along the way, they reached Montgomery March 25.

Nearly 50,000 black and white supporters met the marchers in Montgomery, where they gathered in front of the state capitol to hear King and other speakers.

“No tide of racism can stop us,” King proclaimed from the building’s steps.

That August, Congress passed the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which guaranteed the right to vote (first awarded by the 15th Amendment) to all black citizens.




Amy Quesinberry

Community Editor Amy Quesinberry was born at the old West Orange Memorial Hospital and raised in Winter Garden. Aside from earning her journalism degree from the University of Georgia, she hasn’t strayed too far from her hometown and her three-mile bubble. She grew up reading The Winter Garden Times and knew in the eighth grade she wanted to write for her community newspaper. She has been part of the writing and editing team since 1990.

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