Interview with E.D. Nixon


E.D. Nixon:

Oh well, now I can't tell you what was in the article. Now I really…see that's been twenty some odd years ago. I can't, I don't remember all of the…remember the things that was in the article. But I do know this. That because of that article, we got the message out to the peoples [sic]. A whole lot of them had read it, and didn't know what it was all about. But when they got it—said, demand to sit in church today—the article's in the paper, and they said they want all us to be there at the Holt Street Baptist Church tomorrow night. And, and we got the message home. Now I'm telling you if and if we hadn't had that, we wouldn't have had the third of the peoples, but we couldn't risk it. And then because of that, the newspaper—the newspapers here—that thing came out Sunday morning and we had this meeting Monday night. We had newspaper reporters from Atlanta, and Washington, and, and Birmingham, and Memphis, and all across the country even—even that Monday night. And from then on every time we had, had mass meetings we had somebody from some of these places. Ready? Now, with reference to Mrs. Rosa Parks, Mrs. Parks was formerly my secretary in the NAACP, in the local branch, for about twelve years. She also worked with me when I was state president of the NAACP. And she also assisted me in the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters. And if there ever, ever was a woman who was dedicated to the cause, Rosa Parks was that woman. ** She had a deep conviction about what she thought was right. And she lit up there, she could come in here [unintelligible] right now and take this paper to read it. She kept, she keeps a pencil in her hair all the time, every once in a while you see her take it out and mark the old misspelled word. When you get the paper behind her, you know she had it, because every misspelled word, she'd mark it. And me and her worked together, traveled over this state together, and I knew that, that she was clean as a pin. No one, nobody could touch, touch her morally, her character or nothing. The only thing you could say about Rosa Parks, just wouldn't get up and give that white man her seat. But to come, come back and say that she'd done this, she done that, she done this—she's clean as a pin. And that's, that's what made me know that we could won [sic]. Now there, the other cases we could've had, we couldn't have won because the press would have killed it before we got started. And they tried to see—get something on Rosa Parks—but they couldn't find nothing, they couldn't nail her to the cross with. And for that reason we were successful. And of course this may be news to a whole lot of you see. A whole lot of you that really don't know that we actually didn't win the right to ride the bus with Rosa Parks' case. In 1944, we had a problem on the bus with a woman named Viola White. She was found guilty and fined ten dollars in costs. We appealed this case to circuit court as in 1944. And when Rosa Parks was arrested, December the 1st, 1955, this case had never been put on the court docket. The city of Montgomery knew that they couldn't win and they kept, kept—we didn't have no black lawyers or nothing, and we couldn't get on the court calendar, the court calendar. All right, when Rosa Parks was arrested and we'd went on to the second Sunday in January 1956, I called Revered King, Abernathy over to the house one night. I came in that Sunday and I said to him, I said, "Y'all come over here." And we got here and Mrs. Nixon fixed some coffee. I said, "I called you all because I got news for you boys." And I can say that because I've got a son older than either one of them. I said, "You all think we're going to Supreme Court with Mrs. Parks case." "Well ain't that what we're going to do?" I said, "No." I said "That's what the power structure thinks you are going to do to try to get to the Supreme Court with Mrs. Parks case." He says, "Well, what are you going to do?" I said, "Well," I says, "I—I've been told by some good lawyers that we got a good chance to take this case to court. All we got to do is to find four or five people who say they've been mistreated on the bus and file our case right into the federal court. Bypass Montgomery." King said, "Can we do that?" I said, "That—these lawyers say we can. He said, "Where are we going to get the people?" And Abernathy said, he said, "Martin," he said, "You don't know E.D." He said, "I've been knowing him for all these years." He said, "If Nixon says it can, can be done," he said, "It can be done." He said, "Now the question is let us follow his lead." And I told them about the Viola White case—had never been called in—and she died and that case never did get put on the court calendar. And we found five or six women, one of them backed up and said that Fred Grey got her to represent without her consent, but it just so happened that we had a tape recorder on and everything when we talked to her and everything, and we had her consent on the tape recorder. But in doing that we filed this case into circuit court—I mean into the federal court—and we paid Mrs. Parks case off in Court of Common Appeal. It cost us fifty-one dollars. I believe that's what it was. Now, not that Mrs. Parks didn't have a good case, but they were going to do us just like they done us in the Viola White case. They going to hold—wanted to wear us out, wear us out and never move that case up the Circuit Court, and they was all dumbfounded when they found out that we done, decided to go into federal court with two or three people who had been mistreated on the bus. The city fathers dumbfounded. And the, and you know, I found in a whole lot of instances white peoples, whole lot of them wants to be smarter, and make you think they're smart and let a whole lot of folks that they hadn't near the opportunity had I do. I tell the people that about the Housing Authority. We got all these laws on the book but they, and we got people who haven't even finished the second grade, wrapped these power structures here with the Housing Authority around they finger.