Interview with Gov. John Patterson


Gov. John Patterson:

We, we talked, he called me several times during this period of time, we finally cut if off. But after the last call from him, as the bus was coming down from Birmingham, I asked them to send a personal representative down here to be here on the spot and that we would talk with him, and that we would stop this calling over the telephone and talking over the telephone. Well a day or two later, I found this out later, a day or two later, John Seigenthaler and John Door who later became head of the civil rights division and justice department came into Montgomery unannounced, we had no idea they were coming or even who was coming for that matter. Checked in a motel here in town, got up early the next morning, went downtown here and rented a U-drive-it automobile with a Montgomery county, Alabama license plate on it, an went down to the bus station and got involved in the riot. And the story I got from that was, that when the freedom riders got off the bus, some of them were being pursued by some people including some women with pocketbooks, that were beating on them with pocketbooks. And Seigenthaler was driving the car pulled next to these fleeing people on the curb and tried to get some of them into his car, ostensibly to save them I guess from the crowd. Of course, nobody knew who these people were, they were in a Montgomery Alabama car and somebody hit him in the head and left him lying in the street. They picked him up carried him to the hospital, and when he got to the hospital here, he had no identification on him. He had left his identification at the motel that morning and he had work clothes on. No tie, just work clothes. He was posing as a local person I guess and went down and got in the difficulty. And he did not identify himself at the hospital, until they let him make a phone call to the White House and that was the first time he identified who he was. And of course I was absolutely flabbergasted that the representative of the President would come down here and not come to see us as we had requested, but would disguise himself and then go down and get into the riot himself. And I just could not understand them doing that.