Interview with Sheriff Mel Bailey


Sheriff Melvin Bailey:

OK. Well, you know the sheriff in his county, the code makes him the chief law enforcement officer. I was asked in my earlier campaign before coming into office my first term, "How will you handle Bull Connor," by a former mayor of Birmingham's, Cooper Green. I said, "We'll have to wait and see." And sure enough a confrontation came. Ironically, it came in the office with Chief Moore, present was also the soon-to-be-mayor, Albert Boutwell, former lieutenant governor, senator. Man of great background. He and Bull, the commissioner, my former boss, have a heated dispute in the chief's office. I'm there for purposes obviously, the streets are boiling with all sorts of problems. People more than anything—black, white, so forth—showing no respect for anybody present: me, the chief, the staff officers, director of public safety. Also present, [Al] Lingo. After they had accused each other of usurping the other's authority, get the hell out of here, you're not mayor. You aren't either, you know, back and forth and I jerked ‘em both up sort of as I was able to, both of them were not necessarily large of stature. Bull was even the shorter. I said, "Gentlemen, I want to tell you something. And, it's regrettable and I have to say this to two men of such esteem. As sheriff, I'm gonna have to come over here and take over this matter of policing this city. We have a crisis on our hands." Do you know both of them apologized and immediately left the room? They had sensibility about the problem. They were switching from authoritative position to personal wants and desires, and I have never had but one desire and that was to have law and order. Then, now, and forever, hopefully.