The Foundation for a Meaningful Life
Kindergarten - Grade 9 in Southborough, MA
Fay Magazine: Fall-Winter 2021

Finding the Value Within: Roger Daly ’59

Daintry Duffy Zaterka '88
Roger Daly’s experience as a Freedom Rider during the Civil Rights Movement was a pivotal moment that helped him confirm his commitment to a life in the ministry.
Roger Daly did not enter Fay under auspicious circumstances. After failing seventh grade for the second time, he was asked to leave the Groton School. Roger entered Fay in the fall of 1957 as a self-described "clueless young man" whose lack of engagement with the world featured one notable exception. Everyday issues of justice piqued his interest. It bothered him when kids were treated differently for no discernable reason. Roger recalls, "I was determined to understand what it meant for something to be fair or unfair."
Roger straightened out at Fay and was accepted back to Groton for ninth grade. In February 1963, during Roger's senior year, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. visited Groton as part of the school's Washburn Lecture Series. Dr. King addressed the student body, attended classes, and met with students and small groups. The experience of meeting Dr. King affected Roger deeply. "He helped me recognize the difference between good and bad and right and wrong and convinced me that it was okay for me to reject one in favor of the other."
The summer before Roger began college, his father died, and Roger was adrift again. He spent his freshman year at Dartmouth "overworking, but not producing much." In the fall of 1964, he returned to Dartmouth for his sophomore year, but his attention was a thousand miles away. The murders of civil rights workers Chaney, Goodman, and Schwerner and the subsequent trial were all over the news. Roger recalls studying the LIFE Magazine picture of the local sheriff and deputy sitting at the defendant's table in court wearing smug expressions as they were indicted for the murders. "I guess I went a little crazy," he recalls. "I decided that's where I needed to go." Roger withdrew from Dartmouth and was accepted as a field worker for the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). After Christmas, he boarded a bus to Jackson, Mississippi, joined a group of volunteers for a week of lectures, training, and orientation on non-violent protest, and was subsequently deployed. Roger was headed to Selma, Alabama.
In Selma, Roger found himself back in the orbit of Dr. King and other luminaries of the Civil Rights Movement like Hosea Williams, John Lewis, and Malcolm X. He worked as an "observer," reporting on what he saw to the media. He was standing on the steps of the federal building watching as Black people tried to register to vote at the courthouse across the street when he was beaten for the first time. In court, his assailant was given the choice of a ten dollar fine or ten days in jail, and the judge dressed down Roger as "an intrusive, idealistic, Ivy League college boy causing trouble." Two weeks later, Roger was arrested for willful disobedience of a police officer as he tried to assist voter registration. Over the next two months, he was arrested and jailed three more times. In Selma, Roger was an outsider twice over—rejected by the white community but not accepted by the Black community. He shared a house with other activists, including John Lewis. "He believed in me,” Roger recalls, “and I don't think I would have survived there without him." The final time Roger was jailed, he shared a cell overnight with Dr. King. The experience "confirmed for me his goodness," says Roger. "He expressed the kind of values that helped me make sense of my life with regard to justice and the validity of anger and action."
A few weeks later, Roger and an associate were dragged from their parked car and beaten by three men at gunpoint. Two days later, he headed home. "I left Selma," he recalls, "because I told myself that I was provoking people to behave in ways that neither I nor anyone else could predict." While in Selma, Roger had kept in touch with the Reverend John Crocker, Groton’s headmaster, and when Roger returned home, Rev. Crocker helped Roger with the transition. Crocker arranged for Roger to do a speaking tour of independent schools to share his experience and raise awareness about civil rights work. These visits (which included Fay) helped Roger heal. "I thank John Crocker for saving me,” says Roger. “He forced me to articulate my experience, and I'm grateful that he gave me a place to return to and a way to decompress."
Roger returned to Dartmouth the following fall. He married, had a family, and earned master’s degrees in divinity and education, with a focus on clinical psychology. He spent most of his career in pastoral ministry and also served as a family therapist.
Now retired, Roger lives in Edgecomb, Maine, with his wife, Sandra. Looking back on his time in Selma, Roger has mixed feelings about the experience. In Selma, it didn't matter that he went to Fay, Groton, or Dartmouth. He explains, "My journey has led me to seek and affirm the value found within, rather than anything bestowed by the culture or an external force."

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