Interview with Gov. John Patterson
QUESTION 36
INTERVIEWER:

WHAT WAS THE SITUATION IN THE CHURCH THOUGH, THAT APPARENTLY THERE WERE SOME THOUSAND, FIFTEEN HUNDRED PEOPLE…

Gov. John Patterson:

Well, I think it was either a couple nights later, or I think it could have been the next night, Mr. King came to town, he was met out at the airport, by the marshals, federal marshals, and was escorted to the church, and of course we were concerned about this situation because people had begun to gather from all over the country into town here, and it was a very volatile thing. And so the marshals, about 5 or 6 hundred of them, and these were process servers, these were not trained people in riot control, like the justice department tried to make out, but anyway they showed up at the church and they ring the church, apparently intending to protect the church. And of course no legal authority for marshals to do that kind of thing, you know, under the constitution, but anyway they were doing it and the city had sort of backed off and let them do it. And we brought in our people and watched it from 2 or 3 hundred yards away. And when darkness came a tremendous mob gathered down there, about 10 thousand people. And they got their courage up when night came and began to cat-call the marshals, and throw bottles, and when they started to throw bottles, the marshals began to cover up and when they took their eyes off the mob the crowd ran over them, just ran over the marshals and burned the car, and it took about 10 or 15 minutes for us to free our people in there real quick and restore order. And then we protected the people all night in the church and then next morning escorted them home. Now the thing appeared to be very bad there that night and almost got out of hand. And that's the night I was up in the governor's office, about 3 or 4 blocks away, staying in touch with Mr. Mann, as to what was going on, and we decided to declare martial law. So that evening as this riot began to get started, I issued a decree of marshal law, and we called out a regiment of national guardsman, who were trained in riot control, and we already had a good many of them here anyway, and we immediately just clamped the whole city here under martial law, and just broke up anything and just stopped it and we never had any more difficulty or trouble after that. And the marshals just disappeared that night.