Interview with James Bevel
QUESTION 36
JAMES A. DEVINNEY:

OK, one of the things that happened, of course, another time when you took a sad moment and came up with a moment of victory, or at least a way of achieving victory was after Jimmie Lee Jackson was killed. I think you—that was when you came up with a very important idea. [speaking to the camera crew] And are you going to put that in? Because if you are going to put that in and make a noise then maybe we should stop down here because you're going to— All right, tell me about your reaction to Jimmie Lee Jackson's death.

JAMES BEVEL:

Well, Jimmie Lee Jackson's death came at a point when I was recovering from pneumonia and a beating I had taken myself [unintelligible] all demonstrations in Selma. So, James Orange came and told me that Jimmie Lee Jackson—James Orange was a member of our staff who was in charge of Marion, Alabama—and he came in and told me that this guy Jimmie Lee Jackson, a young deacon in Marion, Alabama, had been shot and of course a few days later he died. I was getting out of the hospital myself. So, I asked him what was the situation. And he said, well the people are mad and they're going to—they want to riot. But I think what a significant thing that happened during the period in which Jackson was killed—the state troopers had gone to Marion and had beat up all of the newsmen and had destroyed their cameras, tore up their pads and ran them out of town. So for the first time, the local and national press really started focusing in on the police violence and brutality. And it was that night that Jimmie Lee Jackson was, was killed. Well, when I went up, I had to preach because I had to try to get the people back out of the state of negative violence, and out of a state of grief. Now if, if you don't deal with negative violence and grief, it turns into bitterness. So what I recommend was that the people walk from Marion to Montgomery, which would give them time to work out in terms of what energy and thinking through their hostility and resentments, and get back focus on the issue. And the question I put to them, do you think Wallace sent the policemen down to kill the man or do you think that the—in the—in out of the pressures and the fears that the police overreact? Now, if overreact, then you can't go around assuming that Wallace sent the men down to kill. So what we need to do is to go to Montgomery and ask the governor, what is his motives and intentions and did he do that deliberately, and was that in fact, just an error that took place. And so the people agreed to do that. You know, it's like, let's further investigate. And my point with the people was that, you know, I don't have no problem with shooting people necessarily, but before you shoot people at least you ought to have all the facts as to what happened so that you're acting rationally upon the law. So that you're not just indiscriminately going around mad, killing some white people that may be coming down the street. If the governor sent the man down there to kill the man and you know that then if you want to deal with the governor on violence, then you have the information. But first of all, do all your investigations and your analysis before you take an action. And the people agreed to that. So then they agreed to walk from Selma to Montgomery to see the governor.