Interview with William Rutherford

Was there suspicion among those people in the SCLC staff that it might be somebody internally leaking information to the FBI?


I think there was a great deal of suspicion even paranoia amongst the staff concerning the activities of the FBI that somehow managed to be extremely well informed under the strangest of circumstances about coming and goings and movements and so on. And, ah, at the point it became quite clear that there was an FBI informant very closely connected with, ah, SCLC, and of course the question became, "Who could it be? Who might it be?" Ah, I think at some point I was accused of being the spy. Many people were accused of being the spy until it became really quite ridiculous and in the long run there actually was an FBI informer on the staff, he was the last one anyone would ever have thought of. And of course, ah, it became a kind of in-house family joke like, ah, "Alright take that to the FBI and see how they like it." Right? So, no it was very widely known that the FBI had Dr. King and presumably the whole organization under surveillance and, ah, it reached a point where I made it very clear, ah, people were saying, "Well let's not discuss this on the telephone or that on the telephone." And my policy, I made it very clear to the staff, that we had no secrets and we would have no secrets. And the best way to counter the FBI surveillance was to say exactly what we thought, what we were doing, what we were planning to do, because there was absolutely nothing that we were doing, planning, or thinking that was in any way either subversive or illegal. So, my response to the FBI, ah, informant and surveillance was just more light and more sunshine on everything we were doing. That, in itself, I thought, was a form of protection for what we were trying to do.