Interview with Gordon Carey
QUESTION 11
INTERVIEWER:

COULD YOU TELL US THE STORY OF YOU AND TOM GATHER COMING BACK FROM SOUTH CAROLINA AND THINKING UP THE IDEA OF THE FREEDOM RIDES?

Gordon Carey:

Yeah, Tom Gather was a student at a small black college in South Carolina who had become very active in the sit-ins there and acted in CORE, one of the CORE chapters in South Carolina. Subsequent to that, Tom was hired as a field secretary for CORE. He and I, of course the CORE office was in New York, Tom and I had been in South Carolina at a non-violent workshop, a training session at one of the colleges there and we were taking a bus back to New York, from that campus. There were several things that had happened shortly before this time. One was that the Supreme Court had ruled that not only should the restaurants, not only should buses be integrated, but also facilities that served interstate buses had to be integrated. That was a case in Richmond, Virginia. Tom and I happened to be riding on this bus, through the state of New Jersey, and we got caught in a snow storm. The bus was stranded on the New Jersey turnpike for something like twelve hours. And we sat on that bus and we talked. I opened my brief case and the one book I had to read in my briefcase was Louis Fisher's biography of Gandhi, and Tom and I were reading this book and talking about it, and a combination of sitting on a bus, the recent Supreme Court decision, and reading about Gandhi's march to the sea got us talking us about an analogous march to the sea here in the South. And we began talking about something that would be a bus trip, and of course we were also inspired by the fact that we knew of the earlier Journey of Reconciliation which CORE and the Fellowship of Reconciliation had sponsored back in '47 or '48 sometime. So we knew about this kind of tactic, and I guess somehow the drama of the whole thing caught us up and we began to think about it, and as a matter of fact we sat there and planned, the two of us, most of the Freedom Ride on that bus before we ever got back to New York City. Tom had laid out—Tom knew the black colleges in the South very well—he'd laid out a potential route for the trip. We came up with a tentative name, we called it a Freedom Ride, and we went back to the office and proposed it. Incidentally we went to New Orleans on the trip because that was the ocean and that was analogous to Gandhi's salt march and going to the sea. So, that's where the whole thing, you know, started. And we went back to the CORE office, talked to some people there, and Tom and I both thought, I think now that, that that they would probably not like the idea, it was a little too wild, it wasn't well thought out and so on. The people we talked to like it, Marvin Rich, Jimmy Robinson, others in the office liked it, Lou LaFarmer, and eventually it took place.