Together with the introduction of the historic citywide bus boycotts, Graetz supported his congregants and participated in activism himself despite dangers to him and his family. He is continued his human rights work and written a memoir. His German grandpa was an impassioned Lutheran who, upon seeing that his own son had selected a career in chemical engineering, prepped his grandson to get a life in the ministry. Graetz went to attend Capital University in Ohio, focusing on pre-theological studies, and after graduated from Trinity Lutheran Seminary. Graetz wed his wife, Jeannie, in 1951, using the couple staying together for decades and going on to have seven kids.
Upon his graduation from Trinity Lutheran Seminary, Robert Graetz was requested by church officials to eventually become pastor in the mostly African American Trinity Lutheran Church in Montgomery, Alabama. So Graetz was the white minister of a black congregation in 1955, through the beginning of the Montgomery Bus Boycott. He determined the correct thing to do was to actively and openly support congregants as well as the cause that they marshalled.
The demonstration was commenced by the African American community after Rosa Parks, a neighbor of Graetz’s, selected to not give up her seat to white passengers on a bus, that she was detained. With a higher level of volunteer coordination needed to make the demonstration successful, Graetz also helped by supplying automobile transport to protesters when he could, coming to believe in King’s notion of a “beloved community.”
Yet he, Jeannie and their kids were targeted by the Ku Klux Klan for his participation in African American civil rights, together with his auto booby-trapped and his church home blasted multiple times. (It’s considered that one bomb, which did not go off, would have killed the Graetz family and leveled much of the block.) Graetz at one point believed that he’d not live to see through the strikes, yet he along with his wife got through via prayer, tune and support from their church community.
The boycott ended successfully using the integration of Montgomery’s bus lines, and Graetz continued his pastoring obligations and civil rights work. He afterwards served various church communities in Ohio and Washington, D.C. Through the early 2000s, he along with his wife also worked with all the National Center for the Study of Civil Rights and African American Culture. Graetz released a revamped version of his memoir in 2006, A White Preacher’s Message on Race and Reconciliation, including the minister’s ideas on several modern human rights problems.