CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- My husband was not yet a year old when his dad went to prison.
Geoff and his father are close. He looks up to his pop. Admires him openly.
One of the things he most admires was his dad's willingness to go to prison for something he believed in.
Last month, Geoff and his father, Winston Fuller, traveled to Parchman Prison in Mississippi, where -- 50 years ago -- Winston was jailed for a little less than three weeks.
Winston was one of the Freedom Riders, a large, multiracial group of men and women from all over the country who organized to board interstate buses in an effort to expose the segregation that continued in the South despite a Supreme Court ruling that outlawed separate bathrooms and waiting rooms for blacks and whites. Winston and his son went to Mississippi for a reunion of the Freedom Riders.
Geoff and his dad were gone almost a week, and when Geoff returned, he could talk of little else for days but the people they met, the places they visited, and his admiration for those who so completely believed in their cause that they'd risk their life to defend it.
Shortly before Geoff and his dad went on their trip, we watched a DVD about a Los Angeles group of Freedom Riders (clips from an old newscast called "City at Night") that included an interview with a young Winston. It had been filmed right before he was to travel to the area where one busload of Freedom Riders had been ambushed and beaten, and another bus had been firebombed. The interviewer asked if he was afraid.
"Yes, I'm afraid," Winston said. "But I'm still going to go."
He said he was holding on to the conviction that something had to be done, and they couldn't hope someone else was going to do it.
"This is the only way you can beat them," Winston said of the peaceful protest, where the strategy was to fill up the jail with those willing to allow themselves to be incarcerated for as long as it took for something to change.
When asked how he felt about the possibility of going to prison when he had such a young son, Winston answered, "I think it would lend some conviction to the moral training I hope to give my son."
Geoff and his dad laugh over that line now, find funny the innocence of the 24-year-old man and his idealistic -- and somewhat simplistic -- view of fatherhood. He had no idea it would take right about 50 years before his son would grasp and appreciate the risk he was willing to take to help make this world a more fair and righteous place for his child -- and for other children as well.