|Alma mater||Capital University, Evangelical Lutheran Theological Seminary|
|Organization||Montgomery Improvement Association|
|Movement||Civil Rights Movement|
Robert S. Graetz (born May 16, 1928) is a Lutheran clergyman who, as the white pastor of a black congregation in Montgomery, Alabama, openly supported the Montgomery bus boycott, a landmark event of the civil rights movement.
Role in civil rights movement
Graetz's first full-time job as pastor was to a black congregation, Trinity Lutheran Church, in Montgomery. He began working there in 1955, the year of the Montgomery bus boycott. A personal friend of Rosa Parks, Graetz became secretary of the Montgomery Improvement Association, the organization founded to organize and support the boycott. Graetz's support of the movement included appearing at meetings led by Martin Luther King Jr.
For his support of the boycott, Graetz and his family were ostracized by other whites and suffered several episodes of harassment, including tire slashings, arrest, and bombings. Bombs were planted at his home on three occasions; the largest did not explode.
Graetz wrote A White Preacher's Memoir: The Montgomery Bus Boycott (Black Belt Press, September 1999. ISBN 1-57966-015-0) about his experiences. The book They Walked to Freedom 1955-1956: The Story of the Montgomery Bus Boycott by Kenneth M. Hare (Sports Publishing LLC, 2005. ISBN 1-59670-010-6) contains a first-person account of his experiences as well as photographs of Graetz with King and others.
Graetz, of German descent, was born in Clarksburg, West Virginia, and educated in Columbus, Ohio. He graduated from Capital University in Bexley, Ohio in 1950, and received a B.D. in 1955 from Evangelical Lutheran Theological Seminary in Columbus, Ohio. He married Jean Ellis (known as Jeannie) on June 10, 1951, in East Springfield, Pennsylvania. They had seven children togehter.
In 2008, the Graetzes returned to Montgomery, Alabama, where they are actively involved in various civic activities including the diversity group One Montgomery and the League of Women Voters. Each year they host the annual Graetz Symposium at the National Center for the Study of Civil Rights and African-American Culture at Alabama State University.
- Community Lutheran, Los Angeles, Cal. (1952–54), as an intern (student pastor)
- Trinity Lutheran, Montgomery, Ala. (1955–58)
- St. Philip Lutheran, Columbus, Ohio (1958–67) -– later named Pastor Emeritus
- Lutheran Mission 373, Washington, D.C. (1967–70), an experimental community ministry
- St. James Lutheran, Washington, D. C. (1970), interim pastor
- Ohio Council of Churches, Columbus, Ohio (1970–83)
- Christ the King Lutheran, Columbus, Ohio (1974)
- St. John Lutheran, Logan, Ohio (1983–95), part-time ministry
- Retired, October 31, 1995 -– named Pastor Emeritus
- St. Matthew Lutheran, Sugar Grove, Ohio (1997–1998), interim pastor
- St. John Lutheran Church, Logan, Ohio (1998), interim pastor
- St. Paul Lutheran Church, Pomeroy, Ohio, and St. John Lutheran Church, Racine, Ohio, interim pastor (2001–2002)
- Faith Lutheran Church, Jackson, Ohio, interim pastor (2002–2003)
- Russwurm Award, National Negro Newspaper Publishers Association, 1957
- Selma Humanitarian Award, from the producers and cast of the musical "Selma," about life and work of Martin Luther King Jr., 1976
- Distinguished Alumnus, Trinity Lutheran Seminary, 1986
- Doctor of Humanities, Capital University, 1990
- Ohio Humanitarian Award, 1993, in conjunction with Martin Luther King Day celebration
- (Ohio) Governor's Humanitarian Award, 1997, in conjunction with Martin Luther King Day celebration
Books and publications
- A Congregational Guide to Human Relations, 1964
- "An Informed Church Serves a Diverse Society," chapter in The Church in a Diverse Society, ed. L.W. Halvorson, Augsburg, 1964
- Monthly columnist for Columbus, Ohio, Diocese Catholic Times (1973–87)
- Montgomery - a White Preacher's Memoir, Chicago: Augsburg Fortress, 1991 (re-published as A White Preacher's Memoir: The Montgomery Bus Boycott. Black Belt Press, September 1999. ISBN 1-57966-015-0
- A White Preacher's Message on Race And Reconciliation: Based on His Experiences Beginning With the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Montgomery: New South Books, 2006. ISBN 1-58838-190-0
- "Wittenberg University - Civil Rights Pioneer Encourages Self-Examination in Martin Luther King Day Address At Wittenberg". Archived from the original on 2006-09-01. Retrieved 2018-10-21.
- "A White Preacher's Message". Archived from the original on 2012-02-05. Retrieved 2019-04-23.
- "561200: "We Are Still Walking"". Archived from the original on 2007-01-08. Retrieved 2007-01-16.
- "Montgomery Bus Boycott: The story of Rosa Parks and the Civil Rights Movement". montgomeryboycott.com. Archived from the original on 2012-11-09.
- "Wittenberg Welcomes Civil Rights Pioneer For Martin Luther King Jr. Commemorative Convocation On Jan. 17". 2005-01-04. Archived from the original on 2006-09-01. Retrieved 2007-01-16.
- "Robert Graetz - Pastor, Civil Rights Activist". biography.com. Archived from the original on 2019-04-09.
Robert S. Graetz Jr. was born on May 16, 1928, in Clarksburg, West Virginia. His German grandfather was an ardent Lutheran who, upon seeing that his own son had chosen a career in chemical engineering, prepped his grandson for a life in the ministry.
- "King Chronologies". Archived from the original on 2004-12-16. Retrieved 2007-01-16.
- Robert Graetz: A White Preacher's Message on Race and Reconciliation: Based on His Experiences Beginning with the Montgomery Bus Boycott, NewSouth Books, 2006, p. 198 
- Wittenberg University press release on Graetz' appearance at a Martin Luther King commemoration in January 2005
- Wittenberg University press release following Graetz' appearance on campus in January, 2005
- Profile of Graetz, with photo, in a special Montgomery Advertiser section (archived) on the Montgomery Bus Boycott
- National Public Radio, News and Notes, Nov. 4, 2005: Ed Gordon interviews Robert Graetz
- New South Books press release prior to a January, 2007 Graetz appearance at the Alabama Department of Archives and History