Interview with Rev. James Lawson
QUESTION 18
INTERVIEWER:

WHAT ABOUT THE OPPOSITION TO THE SIT-IN MOVEMENT IN NASHVILLE? WOULD YOU SAY THERE'S A LOT OF DIFFERENT TYPES OF OPPOSITION, BUT WHAT WAS THERE BESIDES THE SORT OF THUGS TRYING TO DISRUPT THE SIT-IN? WHERE ELSE DID THE OPPOSITION COME FROM?

Rev. James Lawson:

Well, obviously the opposition came from the Tennessean that was vociferously pro-segregation and typed most of us as Communist who were trying to make changes. So it was obviously the case. The mayor of the city counted himself as a moderate but, as we made certain kinds of demands to desegregate, he felt it couldn't be done at that time, so he pragmatically opposed many of the measures we did, although we did force him to publicly saying that downtown everybody should be served [laughter] before it got settled. And that happened in a very interesting fashion, because one morning very early, Attorney Alexander Looby's home was bombed. He was our chief lawyer in the trials that were going on in Nashville by this time with those of us who had been arrested. So his bomb was, his home, rather, was bombed at 3 o'clock in the morning. Our central committee met immediately and determined that we would have that day then, a big march, and we mobilized and we had several thousands of people. People then marched from Tennessee State University down Jefferson Avenue to the city hall, and at the city hall, we had designated Diane Nash and C. T. Vivian to make our statement to the mayor. We asked the mayor to be present. And so he came out and met us as we got there, and I cannot recall now whether it was Diane or C.T. who asked the right question, but they asked him point blank, well if you, if you really don't believe in segregation and what not, then would you say to the merchants that they ought to open up and serve everybody, black people in it. And he didn't make the admission then, that he called upon the city to serve everybody, the merchants to serve everyone. So that was one of the interesting breaks that we got before the merchants talked seriously.