Interview with James Bevel

OK, talk to me a little bit about what you saw as the basic differences between Jim Clark and a Wilson Baker.


, Jim Clark was, was like a typical reactionary, Southern sheriff. Who in fact—it's interesting—he, I used to see him all the time because he was dating a black woman that was—lived about a block from the church. So his car would be over at her house, like when day break and all, you know, and, and everyone understood that that was typical. See that's typical of the reactionary Southerner white sheriffs. His whole power base was based on the disenfranchisement of people and intimidating people. He had a posse of about three hundred people and he would ride around in motorcades with his posse and threatening folk, and this kind of thing, and he was the sheriff of the county and Wilson Baker was a—what are called city—safety commissioner, I think. And of course, he was from North Carolina. What had happened, he had married a woman from Selma, but he was a very well-trained police officer. In other words, he had a concept of what police work was under a democratic system of government in terms of upholding the law. And of course, his position was that, in that, that was a science, that a man who had studied and mastered that science could be impartial in the enforcing of the law. And that's all he was interested in, and he used to sit down to me and talk about, you know hours, about police work and police enforcement and all that kind of stuff. And on the other hand, there was Jim Clark who was the sheriff, who was negative, threatened if you didn't act frightened around him, demanded that you, you know, get down for him. All those kinds of antics. And of course, when you'd come around and act just like a man, he would go off. He would go off, like when he jumped on Vivian[C.T. Vivian]. That was a problem that day, you know, he couldn't get Vivian to act cowardly, and when a black man didn't act cowardly around him, he just—he went off. And, but he basically didn't know police work. He had based, you know, like the little fiefdoms in the—you read about in—in history. And he was, he'd remind you more or less of the guys, I don't think you ever knew them, the sheriffs down in New Orleans—not in New Orleans—but in Louisiana. I mean, they was pretty much like Jim Clark. They had little kingdoms and they had these little armies, and Jim Clark operated pretty much like that.