Interview with Sheriff Mel Bailey
QUESTION 27
INTERVIEWER:

OK, WHAT DID YOU REALLY WANT PEOPLE OF AMERICA AND THE WORLD TO KNOW ABOUT BIRMINGHAM THAT MIGHT NOT SHOW UP IN THE FILM.

Sheriff Melvin Bailey:

I wanted them to know that there were those present in law enforcement that like myself had more than a vested interest here. This is our home, this is our sworn duty to maintain the peace and dignity of this community. And in spite of what you see and hear, we are alive and working with people involved to resolve this situation. I almost hurried to a meeting where I received a call at city hall again, in company with Chief Jamie Moore and Captain George Wall and numerous other staff people there and my chief and several others. The attorney general, Kennedy called and asked for me, he said, "Sheriff, this is Attorney General Kennedy, Bobby Kennedy, I'm advised by reliable people that you are a trusted person, they trust you. I've got to ask you a question." Yes Sir. The Howdy Doodies and all. He said, "Are you going to be able to hold it?" Realizing that by now the federal government has federalized the troops and in fact twelve thousand are at Fort McClellan, here's this monkey on my back again, you know, when do you want law, when do you want martial law? I do not want martial law. Martial law seems like an easy way out but the problem with martial law is you won't have a prerogative of pulling it off. Those who you call in will decide when they'll back out. And I think you've surrendered your responsibility, copped out on it. And I never was ready for that. I don't say that I wouldn't have done it had I seen impossible situation. He asked this question. "Can you handle it?" I said, "If you get Dr. Martin Luther King out of Birmingham." "Is that right?" he said. I said, "Yes sir, we can handle it if you can do that." He left that night to Memphis. You see we had another problem. We had intelligence that he was a marked man. It was to either happen in Birmingham or Selma. I didn't want it to happen here.

CAMERA CREW MEMBER:

WE JUST RAN OUT. WE DID GET THAT LAST—OK, THAT WAS A CAMERA ROLLOUT. WE'RE GOING TO ROLL 524. THAT WAS A ROLLOUT ON 523. THE LAST STATEMENT WAS KING WAS A MARKED MAN, EITHER IN SELMA OR BIRMINGHAM. OK WE'RE STARTING CAMERA ROLL 524. AND—

CAMERA CREW MEMBER:

OK JIM, IT'S ALL YOURS.