Courtney Parker Siceloff, 92, lifelong opponent of war and racism

Courtney Siceloff was a devout Quaker who did a lot of good during his lifetime, but he never shrank from pointing out what was not good.

He was a dedicated protester for decades. Into his 80s he was a familiar figure at the corner of 14th and Peachtree streets holding a sign that read, "War is not the answer," even getting arrested for trespassing to call attention to what he called his "witnessing against injustice."

“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 one of his fellow American Friends Service Committee members, former AFSC regional director Elizabeth Enloe of New York City.

Courtney Parker Siceloff, 92, died Tuesday at Hospice Savannah of respiratory failure. An Atlanta resident from 1973 until recently, he moved to Savannah in 2008 and resided at Habersham House assisted-living facility. A memorial service is tentatively planned to take place in Decatur. Thomas L. Carter Funeral Home in Hinesville is in charge of arrangements.

John Siceloff of New York City said his father, as a young man from Texas, was troubled by the prospect of America’s entry into World War II because he had come to believe that violence against any human being was tantamount to violence against God. With that in mind, the elder Siceloff transferred from Southern Methodist University to Haverford College, a Pennsylvania school with a strong Quaker presence. In time, he chose to become a conscientious objector.

During the war Siceloff worked at public service camps, caring for psychiatric patients in Maryland, building roads in West Virginia, and stringing telephone lines up a steep mountain in New Hampshire. After the war he spent several years serving aboard ships carrying cattle to feed malnourished Europeans, then assisting Spanish Civil War refugees encamped in southern France.

Siceloff took a job in 1950 as executive director of a community center and school on St. Helena, a South Carolina coastal island. It was there that the elder Siceloff first met the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1963 and later accompanied King in the momentous March on Washington. Near the White House, Siceloff chalked up his first of many protest arrests.

In 1968 he was appointed deputy director for Peace Corps programs in Afghanistan. Getting local warlords to agree to public health and agricultural programs in the country’s remote and feudal areas required delicate negotiations, his son said.

Siceloff’s next job brought him to Atlanta in 1973. He joined the staff of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, whose mission was to ensure that federal funds for local projects were distributed without racial, gender or other forms of bias.

“Retirement opened a door for Dad to devote more time to causes that mattered most to him — outlawing the death penalty, sheltering the homeless, ending the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan,” his son said. “He didn’t view those who opposed him as enemies, but people who had a spark of the Divine in them and could be persuaded to choose a right way.”

Siceloff was a faithful member of the Atlanta Friends Meeting House and helped establish its expanded worship center and school in Decatur, his son said.

“Courtney was so compassionate,” said a friend, Sally Ferguson of Atlanta. “He was touched by the plight of a homeless schizophrenic woman we knew who would scream and rant if she felt the slightest offense. Courtney built a two-room dwelling with heat and plumbing for her beneath the Siceloff family’s back porch. For several years he or his wife would take a hot meal to her each evening. I think he appreciated the woman for allowing him to do good for her.”

Elizabeth Siceloff, his wife of 53 years, died in 2003. Surviving in addition to his son are a daughter, Mary Siceloff of Savannah; and a grandson.