KLUNDER, BRUCE W. (12 July 1937-7 April 1964) was a martyr in the campaign to desegregate the Cleveland public schools. Born in Greeley, CO, son of Everett and Beatrice Klunder, he moved with his family to Oregon where he was educated. Klunder earned his bachelor's degree from Oregon State University (1958) and there met his future wife, Joanne Lehman. The couple wed 22 Dec. 1956, and had two children, Janice and Douglas.

Klunder and his wife moved to New Haven, CT, where he enrolled in the Yale Divinity School. He was graduated with his B.D. in 1961. In Sept. 1961 Klunder came to Cleveland as executive director of the Student Christian Union of the YMCA. He was ordained to the Presbyterian presbyterate in Cleveland at the Church of the Covenant on 4 March 1962. In April, 1962, Klunder was a founding member of the Cleveland area CORE (Congress for Racial Equality).

Klunder believed his calling demanded social activism and was soon a leader in the civil rights movement. He frequently did picket duty, demonstrating for fair housing, and against segregated public facilities and discrimination in hiring.

When the Cleveland City School District decided to build new schools which would have reinforced the pattern of segregated neighborhood enrollment, Klunder took the lead in attempting to stop construction. On 7 April 1964, he and four other protesters gathered at the construction site for Stephen E. Howe Elementary School on Lakeview Road. He lay down behind a bulldozer while four other pickets blocked its forward path. The operator, seeking to avoid the protesters in front of him, unknowingly backed over Klunder, instantly killing him. His death was ruled an accident.

The next day 150 people marched in silent memorial in front of the Board of Education Building downtown. Funeral services were held at the Church of the Covenant with Eugene Carson Blake, head of the United Presbyterian Church delivering the eulogy, and 1,500 attending.

Klunder's ashes were interred in the columbarium of the CHURCH OF THE COVENANT.


Black, white and red text reading Western Reserve Historical Society

Finding aid for the Reverend Bruce Klunder Collection, WRHS.

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