Justice Denied and Delayed for 55 Years for Our Classmate, Alva Earley
At our special GHS/Knox Reunion for the Class of 1963, Alva told his story to four of us who attended
that special meeting on Thursday night of Homecoming, 2013. Alva did not graduate
with his Galesburg High School class in 1959, because he “attended a picnic sponsored by the
NAACP” on the North side of Lake Storey (for whites only), during his senior year of high
school. Alva was “assigned to bring the baked beans”. ! !
Lowell Peterson contacted Owen Muelder after our brief reunion, and suggested that we should
correct that injustice. Owen agreed, and contacted the superintendent of schools in Galesburg. ! !
At an emotional ceremony on August 8, 2014, in the District 205 offices, Alva finally received his
diploma. Many of his classmates from the Galesburg High School 1959 class were there to enjoy
the ceremony, along with Knox president, Teresa Amott, Owen Muelder, and Lowell Peterson.
I was there also, and was able to assure Alva that he could continue with his inspiring
speech for the momentous occasion. My connection with Alva goes back to 4th grade in Galesburg,
when I walked home with him after school on many days. ! !
Alva’s hardship goes back to early childhood, when his “father” first saw him and decided that
Alva “could not be his son”, and “beat him across his face with a razor strap”. He told Alva that
he was “worthless, useless, and gutless, and would never amount to anything”. This was the
beginning of a very long, brutal relationship.! !
Alva was an excellent student through high school, and was admitted to Northwestern University
and the University of Chicago, until his admission was rescinded because he “was not recommended
by his high school”. Knox president, Sharvey Umbeck, told Alva he would be welcome
to attend Knox. While attending Knox, Alva’s father kicked him out of the house, so Alva
wound up sleeping in the Knox bookstore (then in the basement of Alumni Hall). President Umbeck
learned of Alva’s difficult situation and found Alva a room in the Knox dorms, at no expense
to Alva, so he could take his final exams. ! !
Then, while putting him out, Alva’s father told him he would “kill him if he ever saw his face
again”. Alva took that threat seriously, so decided to leave Knox, despite his affection for Knox,
which he considered his home. After raising money for 2 years, he transferred to the University
of Illinois, where he graduated. ! !
Alva then got a law degree (Chicago-Kent) and a doctorate (from an Episcopal Divinity School
located on the Northwestern University campus). He then worked for about 20 years as an attorney
for the State of Illinois. ! !
Alva hardly proved to be worthless, useless, and gutless, as his father claimed, but instead is
our hero. We are so proud to claim Alva Earley as a member of the GHS Class of ’59! And
hooray for President Umbeck’s caring and wise decisions on behalf of Knox!! !
John Sauter (for GHS ’59 web site)! !