Interview with Joseph Azbell




Joseph Azbell:

When Martin Luther King's house was bombed, I was sitting at my desk at the and I got a call from the guy that ran the service station up at the corner, a half a block from a black man and he told me King's home was just bombed. And I jumped in my car and I ran there and I was there in just a few minutes because it's only a matter of blocks from the to King's home, the mats of the Dexter Avenue Church. And when I got there, there were Blacks gathered on the lawn, and they were mean, they were mad. And they didn't know if King was hurt, they didn't know if Mrs. King, or if the child was hurt or if Mrs. Roscoe Williams they said was in there, if she was hurt. And they started gathering around me, and they were—I forgot I was white. I was so used to covering these things and being at these things that I forgot that my skin was white. They were looking at me as a white object and, so they started gathering around me. The policemen arrived and what have you but that was a gathering angry mob of people. And it could have ignited a riot in a matter of seconds and I was right in the middle of these guys, and they were gathered around me. And he went, King arrived, he had been at the First Baptist Church speaking, and he arrived, and when he arrived and when went up on the porch, and he told them and he said put down your knives. Put down your guns. Put down your chains. We must be passive. We must be like Jesus. We must be passive and we must not violate the law. We must not do any of this violence. And so, and they, I felt that easier feeling with him speaking. So when I was called as the witness in the King trial and I was the only white witness in the King trial there that spoke for him, I was called by the state, but they never asked me what I was going to say. And so, they asked me about this, they asked me if he advocated violence. And I told them this story, and I told them other stories that where he advocated non-violence, just the opposite, and it was that that got him off. And I went downstairs and Mrs. King came over and she shook my hand and he came over and hugged me and he thanked me, and he says there is one thing I know about you and is that you are a truthful man, you told the truth as the only person there. But I was afraid that night. On another occasion, my wife and I went, when King's house was bombed. My wife and I were going out on a date and I said, "I've got to go to the King bombing." She says, "Well, I'm not going on a date, I'm going with you," and we walked down the middle of thousands of blacks lined up on Clinton street to King's house and she went with me and it was to fulfill that date that we were going to have and so we still kid about having a date at a bombing of E.D. Nixon's house.