Bristol civil rights activist Paul Stephenson has train named in his honour

Dr Paul Stephenson at the unveiling at Bristol Temple Meads. Credit: ITV West Country

A civil rights campaigner most commonly known for leading the Bristol Bus Boycott has had a train named in his honour to mark Black History Month.

Dr Paul Stephenson OBE, 83, was the city's first black social worker. He moved to the West Country in 1960 after serving in the RAF.

This is the moment Dr Stephenson saw his name revealed on a GWR train at Bristol Temple Meads station:

In 1963 Dr Stephenson led the Bristol Bus Boycott which started after one of the city's bus companies refused to employ ethnic minorities.

It lasted for 60 days and ended with campaigners overturning the ban.

A year later, in 1964, Dr Stephenson came to the public's attention again when he refused to leave a public house until he was served. It resulted in a magistrates' court trial that was dismissed.

Paul Stephenson marching for racial equality in 1963. Credit: ITV West Country

Dr Stephenson's actions went on to prove instrumental in the creation of the 1965 Race Relations Act, which banned racial discrimination in public places. It also made the promotion of hatred on grounds of 'colour, race, or ethnic or national origins' an offence.

In 2007 he was granted Freedom of the City of Bristol before being made an OBE in 2009 for his services to equal opportunities and to community relations in Bristol. In 2017 he received a Pride of Britain Award for Lifetime Achievement.

Dr Stephenson was given the Pride of Britain award by Sir Lenny Henry in 2017. Credit: PA images

As a result of votes by members of the public and staff from Great Western Railway, Dr Stephenson's name has been placed on a GWR train to celebrate his work. He is the first black person tor receive this honour. His family says it is an amazing day and a mark of respect to his years of campaigning. 

It is part of the company's 'Great Westerners' campaign to recognise past and present heroes.

Dr Paul Stephenson OBE at the naming ceremony in Bristol. Credit: ITV West Country

Dr Stephenson's naming ceremony took place at Bristol Temple Meads station, where people have paid tribute to his lifetime of campaigning.

ITV West Country was not able to interview Dr Stephenson at the unveiling because of his health but his close friend Rob Mitchell says he is immensely proud. He says, "I think pride about the honour of it will be the biggest emotion for sure.

"Certainly for me I feel sad and humbled that he couldn't tell you that himself but looking at him there by the train you can see it in his eyes".

Stephenson was spokesperson for the Bristol Bus Boycott and joined by several other organisers. Credit: PA images

The city's Mayor, Marvin Rees, said he was "delighted" that Dr Stephenson is being honoured by the train operator.

He said: "Black History Month gives us an opportunity to celebrate Black contributors to British society and it is fitting that GWR will be adding Dr Stephenson to the list of those Great Westerners whose names adorn its trains."

After working in London on the Commission for Racial Equality, Dr Stephenson was appointed to the Sports Council in 1975, where he campaigned against sporting contacts with apartheid South Africa.

He later returned to Bristol and helped set up the Bristol Black Archives Partnership.