Former Pittsburgh City Council member Sala Udin pardoned by President Obama

Udin was arrested during his time registering voters in the South.

President Barack Obama; Sala Udin

President Barack Obama; Sala Udin

Mandi Wright/Detroit Free Press via USA TODAY NETWORK; Used with permission from the photographer
Sarah Anne Hughes

Sala Udin, a former Pittsburgh City Council member and community and civil rights activist, has been pardoned by President Barack Obama.

As a Freedom Rider, Udin helped register voters in the South. “They lived very dangerous lives,” he said of Freedom Riders during an appearance on The Moth.

“Freedom riders, we took carloads of sharecroppers and farmers up to the county seat every day to the courthouse to register to vote,” Udin said. “We would take children to the all-white elementary school to desegregate the elementary school. Or we’d take high school students and college students to the all-white lunch counter.”

It’s why he traveled with a weapon.

“I decided that I’d rather be caught with a gun by the police than without it by the Klan if I had to defend my life on some dark, lonely road in Mississippi,” Udin told KDKA last year.

Udin was arrested and sentenced to five years in prison in 1970 for transporting firearms and possessing untaxed distilled spirits; he served seven months. He applied for a presidential pardon in 2012, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette editorial board, which backed his request:

After decades of public life in Pittsburgh, Mr. Udin is known for fighting racial discrimination, serving in city council for 10 years, co-founding the New Horizons Theater and the House of the Crossroads drug treatment program, and championing the August Wilson Center.


Because of his community activism, Mr. Udin hopes a pardon is possible. Given our own knowledge of his work, the Post-Gazette supports his application and urges Mr. Obama to grant the request.

Udin and Theresa Marie Bishop of Pittsburgh, who was sentenced in 2006 on firearms charges, are two of the 78 people Obama pardoned today. The president also commuted the sentences of 153 other people.