Interview with William Rutherford

Can you tell me something wonderful in terms of what your first impression was when you walked in the office at the SCLC office at the Auburn Avenue headquarters, in terms of the collection of people there? What did you find?


Ah, my first impressions of SCLC, I didn't believe it. It was an unbelievable collection of rich, poor, well-clad, poorly-clad people, articulate people, busy people, loafing people, visiting people. People from all walks of life, Black, White, farmers, ah, businessmen, people really coming to bring things, I mean everything from food, I won't say chickens but I really would say dishes of food, bread, and so on, that they would share with the staff that was there. The staff, I would say, ranged from unemployed sharecroppers to, through students, religious people, to very sophisticated business people who would come in to see how they could contribute and participate. And of course this lack of order and organization was what made it a grassroots movement that spread across the total spectrum of American society and life, ah. It gave it it's strength and it's impetus but then that became self-defeating at some point. And I believe this is where Dr. King decided, ah, and it had been discussed sometime, of course, earlier that the organ--the movement needed to become more organized. And that's essentially what I was asked to do. And after, ah, being there as I said, really for an orientation session and getting involved in and actually working there and having no friends there. I only knew two people when I actually arrived in, ah, Atlanta, Dr. King himself and Andy Young, and Mrs. King. I had met the three of them in Geneva a year earlier, ah. Having, as I say, having no other contacts or relations there, I really spent my time in the office after hours and on and on and on. And at some point Dr. King said to me very, very nicely, "Well Bill having you here has made a terrific difference and it really would be very nice if you could come back and stay for a longer time."


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