Courtney Parker Siceloff

SiceloffCourtney Parker Siceloff, 92, on January 28, 2014, in Savannah, Ga. Courtney was born on January 4, 1922, in Bartlett, Tex., to Mary Margaret Powell and John Andrew Siceloff. As his Methodist minister father moved every three or four years, Courtney learned to make friends wherever he was. At Southwest Methodist College in the early 1940s, after taking part in a student group discussing racism and pacifism, he joined a peace caravan led by A.J. Muste and Bayard Rustin. Graduating in 1943 from Haverford College, he served as a Civilian Public Service conscientious objector in forestry camps, volunteered in 1946 for the United Nations relief effort to send cattle to Europe, and worked for American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) for several years in the south of France in post-war reconstruction and support for refugee populations. He met his future wife, Elizabeth Taylor, on a Quaker study tour to Scandinavia, and they married in 1949. The next year they traveled to Saint Helena (then called Frogmore), S.C. Courtney became the director of Penn Center (then called Penn School). Under his leadership, it thrived as a community development center and a vital link in the fight for civil rights in the South. In the early 1960s, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference held retreats there, and Martin Luther King Jr. visited several times.

In 1969, Courtney resigned from Penn Center and worked for four years as deputy director of the Peace Corps in Kabul, Afghanistan. The Siceloffs moved to Atlanta in 1973, and he worked with the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights to ensure that projects receiving federal funds were free of racial bias. He joined Atlanta Meeting, served as presiding clerk, worked with the construction and move to a larger meetinghouse, and took part in the start of a Friends school. He also served on the AFSC Southeast Regional and National Executive Committee and regularly attended Southern Appalachian Yearly Meeting and Friends General Conference Gatherings.

After his retirement and well into his 80s, he continued to work for racial equality, women’s rights, nonviolence, and the eradication of poverty, and often stood with other Friends in war protests. He built a two-room dwelling with heat and plumbing under his back porch for a homeless schizophrenic woman who would scream and rant if she felt the slightest offense, and he or Elizabeth took her a hot meal each evening for several years. He educated and inspired Friends by his example of a constant, strong, and gentle witness. “We looked to Courtney for guidance in turbulent times and times of joy. His integrity, his pursuit of justice, his commitment to nonviolence, and his Quaker capacity to find the good in everyone were luminous beacons to us all,” said former AFSC regional director Elizabeth Enloe of New York City.

Courtney’s loving wife of 53 years, Elizabeth Taylor Siceloff, passed away in 2003, and a son, John Siceloff, in 2015. He is survived by a daughter, Mary Siceloff, in Savannah; a grandson; and an extended family of cousins, nieces, and nephews, whose lives have all been enriched by Courtney’s extraordinary life and his vision of a better world.

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