Carmel man uses website to explain Civil RIghts era


By Mark Ambrogi


When his mother died in December, Garret Matthews took stock of himself.

“It made me think you only have one life, you want to have an imprint for your time here,” Matthews said.

Matthews, a 65-year-old Carmel resident, said he believes sharing his interviews and research on the civil rights movement can be his imprint. Matthews, a long-time newspaper reporter and columnist, wants to help teach youth about the civil rights movement.

Matthews had gathered interviews for a book he planned.

“I couldn’t quite pull the trigger on that,” Matthews said of the book deal.

With the help of his son Colin, Matthews has put the civil rights movement experiences of 40 men and women, including several Freedom Riders, on a website ( Those histories can be accessed by clicking on the Coming Together icon. Matthews said young people are far more likely to look at a website than read a book these days.

“Many young people, black and white, know next to nothing about the fight to desegregate the Jim Crow South,” Matthews said. “I’m not sure if schools run out of time in history and it stops after World War II or the Cold War, but for some reason it’s seems under taught.”

Instead he wrote a two-act play “Jubilee in the Rear View Mirror.” The play has been performed three times, opening in Evansville in 2012. When Matthews staged the show in Evansville, he set up the audiences in segregated sections to drive home what it was like in the South in the ’60s.

When Matthews was talking with actors in his play, he found many actors in their 20s didn’t know the story.

“I had one actor tell me that he thought Martin Luther King died in the Birmingham jail,” Matthews said.

King was assassinated on the balcony of a Memphis motel in 1968.

On the website, there are also two 30-minute DVDs, where Matthews talked to African-Americans in Evansville and Greenwood, Miss., about what it was like to live in segregation.

Matthews, who wrote a metro column for the Evansville Courier & Press for 20 years, said the civil rights movement always been a passion. Matthews grew up in the southwest corner of Virginia, which racism was prevalent at the time. The schools didn’t desegregate until 1965, his junior year in high school.

“I was a shy kid,” Matthews said. “Things happened and I should have spoken up and didn’t. That kind of lingers.”

Matthews, who worked for the Bluefield (W.Va.) Daily Telegraph before heading to the Courier & Press in 1987, retired in 2011. He and his wife moved to Carmel to be closer to his son’s family.

Matthews has spoken to some area high schools and plans to speak at Ben Davis this spring. He hopes to have an Indianapolis area of his play sometime in the near future.