A civil rights organization, whose founding members include Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., is expanding to Wyoming.

The Southern Leadership Conference will open a chapter office in Casper in the coming weeks. Former Casper NAACP chapter president Jimmy Simmons will head the organization.

Simmons said the SCLC is expanding from the west bank of the Mississippi River all the way to California.

"It's a big move," he said in a phone interview.

Simmons said the civil rights organization's expansion west is a needed move as racially motivated crimes continue to happen and increase across the country. The Wyoming Chapter of the SCLC will work with victims of racism throughout the state.

Unfortunately, racism has not gone away in the American West, though it's not easily brought to light, Simmons said. He added the SCLC's presence in Wyoming will help change that.

Simmons has been in the West for nearly five decades and in that time he has worked on civil rights and hate crime cases throughout the region. In 2003, Simmons said he worked on hanging in Riverton. He's also taken part in a segregated water fountain case in Colorado in 2006.

"In 2006 you have a segregated water fountain?" Simmons said. "That's ridiculous."

In the coming weeks, staffers for the organization will be hired. Simmons said the SCLC is looking at opening an additional office in Wyoming, though it hasn't been decided where.

According to the national website, the SCLC's beginnings can be traced back to the Montgomery Bus Boycott which began after Rosa Parks famously refused to give up her seat to a white man on a bus.

The SCLC advocates fighting segregation nonviolently.

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