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Louisiana Governor Pardons Woman as MLK Day is Made Official

Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco on Sunday signed a bill to make the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr a state holiday, following up on her first official act as governor last year of proclaiming the day should be recognized by Louisiana. The official sanction was made possible after the state legislature approved the legislation (Act 740) in 2004, the Associated Press reports.

Governor Blanco honored the new state holiday by issuing her first pardon as governor to 62-year-old Betty Jean Wilson Claiborne, who was convicted of simple battery, disturbing the peace, and resisting arrest in 1963 when she and four other African-Americans attempted to integrate a City Park swimming pool. Claiborne, who was 21 at the time, was fined $100 or 90 days in jail, according to TheNewOrleansChannel.com.

“We knew we weren’t supposed to be there,” Claiborne told the Associated Press. “We went prepared to go to jail, which is why I never understood why they charged us with resisting arrest.” Claiborne now serves as a chaplain at East Baton Rouge Parish Prison. Removal of the conviction will enable Claiborne to receive a degree in theology.

The Associated Press reports that Baton Rouge closed nine public pools the year after Claiborne’s arrest due to a Supreme Court ruling that found segregation of park facilities unconstitutional.

Sources:

Associated Press 1/17/05, 1/18/05; TheNewOrleansChannel.com 1/17/05

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