Interview with Rev. Ralph Abernathy

Who was E.D. Nixon?

Rev. Ralph Abernathy:

E.D. Nixon is a Pullman porter that lived in Montgomery, and he was the civil rights leader, and the head of the NAACP in Montgomery, Alabama. And he, he was living there when I went there as a student, and when I pastored the First Baptist Church, and he had been there a long, long, very long time. I guess he may have been born there, I don't know. But E.D. Nixon was a courageous person. And, but unfortunately when Rosa Parks was arrested on the, December the first, 1955, E.D. Nixon bonded her out, got her out of jail, but he had to go away on Friday, December the second, and be away from the city three days. So he was away on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, and he did not return until Monday. He was at Mrs. Parks' trial where she was found guilty and sentenced, and Attorney Fred D. Grey, who was the attorney for the Movement appealed the case. And we had no idea of continuing our bus boycott [cough] beyond Thursday or Friday, four or five days during that particular week, but Mr. Nixon was instrumental in meeting with me and Reverend French where we drew up the demands of the bus boycott. And, but the meeting was set in the basement of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, Dr. Martin Luther King's, Jr.'s church, on Friday evening, and we had decided to, to have this mass meeting in the heart of the black community. The people decided not to come to the First Baptist Church which was the largest, is the largest church, in Montgomery. But they decided to—against First Baptist—because First Baptist is downtown, and so they wanted to be in the black community totally, and, we felt much more secure. We had never seen a crowd like that crowd before. I had never seen a crowd like that crowd before. I thought some prominent black person had died, and the people had gathered, or some prominent black person had been in an accident. I thought that tragedy had come to the community. Only a wave of freedom, a new birth of freedom had come to the community, and it took Dr. King and I for fifteen minutes to make our way through the crowd, telling the people whom we were. And on the inside of the church I have already told you that it took fifteen minutes before the people would sit down and become quiet and let us begin the meeting. And I can tell you the name of the first song that we sang, and it was "What a Fellowship, What a Joy Divine, Leaning on the Everlasting Arms."**