Interview with Sheriff Mel Bailey
QUESTION 11
INTERVIEWER:

OK, YOU WERE TALKING ABOUT THE POLICE DEPARTMENT JUST A FEW MOMENTS AGO AND THAT YOU THEY WERE PRETTY MUCH LAW AND ORDER PEOPLE. BUT WE HAVE HEARD THERE ARE A NUMBER OF—BULL CONNOR WAS CONNECTED TO THE KLAN IN SOME WAYS AND THAT THERE WERE OTHER KLAN MEMBERS WHO WERE IN THE POLICE DEPARTMENT. WHAT KIND OF PRESSURE DID THAT CAUSE?

Sheriff Melvin Bailey:

Well, I doubt that Commissioner Connor was any less than I was as sheriff. I had many identified Klansmen call me and say, "Sheriff, you just give us the word. We'll take this thing and handle it if you want, you won't ever know what happened." Well, that incensed my personal integrity that they thought that they could call and get that kind of sanction. I'm sure those things happened in elected offices everywhere here. You know the Klan did a sort of a switch over for identity's sake, and for respectability right in the midst of this thing, suddenly no reference made to Klansmen, it became "Citizen Council," and under a now umbrella they were somehow respectable. The robe as we know it, the midnight ride, the non-entity presence of people, but nobody knew who, sort of had to be dropped for their own safety. And we were monitoring so many factions along with the civil rights situation. Counter-intelligence was our salvation in order to keep these people apart. Mindful that the triggering device was any one of these as the case of the commissioner, the mayor, the then mayor, myself, anybody in authority could have turned these people loose. And we were monitoring the very people that they hoped to get that go ahead with, you know. Truly this is a story that may not, can be in its fullest depth be told. But nevertheless, you can imagine that the influence was out there. Because the governor and the commissioner and others weren't just those two or three that wanted to destroy and to, in fact, have war. I could clearly see it. When you get those, those numbers in the streets and opposing views and situation almost happened many times. Whites and blacks and those kind of devilish things that people entertain doing in the midst of civil strife.