Rodney Hurst joined the Jacksonville Youth Council NAACP at the invitation of Rutledge Pearson, the Youth Council's advisor. He was eleven. Pearson was Hurst's Eighth Grade American History teacher (and later his Ninth Grade Civics teacher) and the invitation came in the classroom. Hurst considers meeting Rutledge Pearson and subsequently joining the NAACP as having the greatest impacts on his life.
Hurst later became President of the Jacksonville Youth Council NAACP in 1959, and led the Youth Council's sit-in demonstrations in the summer of 1960. Those demonstrations culminated in the now infamous "Ax Handle Saturday" when 200 white males with ax handles and baseball bats, attacked 35 members of the Jacksonville Youth Council NAACP, in downtown Jacksonville. Lunch counters were visible and convenient vestiges of segregation to attack racial discrimination." Lunch counter sit-ins and other demonstrations were about "...human dignity and respect".