Interview with Mayor Joseph Smitherman


Mayor Joseph Smitherman:

Yes, and then you had the thing where the tail was wagging the dog. A lot of the extreme elements were in the Citizens' Council and if you had a good leader, which we had in the Citizens' Council, kept things at a low level, kept down violence, but the elements working back through the Sheriff provoked him into a lot of these things, saying that if you don't react stronger to these demonstrations, when they actually started, Baker's going to run and get your job because Baker prior to that had been the uh, stronger on the segregation issue. So, I think, it was a case of Sheriff Clark, some of it just literally being provoked, just like I was. I mean, you know, here you are in a city, you just been elected and he's got his thing going and uh, you're for jobs, and paving streets and all of that and in comes a civil rights leader, with a lot of national uh, TV and newspaper, we had close to 200 people from various news media all your networks in here and they converge on your city and the first march you see things that you've never seen before and I'd say 2/3 of the 350 marches, the first march out of town people, you would have a black woman carrying a white baby with a white man, or you'd have a blonde headed white woman with a black man and a black baby. And course, while we kept the marches concentrated in a given area from the Brown's Chapel by city, old city hall to the courthouse, you'd have people on the sidewalks jeering them and jeering us to stop ‘em. Which we were trying to handle it peacefully and hope we would wear ‘em out and they'd get out of town and leave town. And everyday they would do something new, but, and everyday the sheriff when they got to the Courthouse would do something uh, different, uh, he'd be provoked by his followers and while, uh Baker who later became sheriff handled it very professionally, uh, very professionally, uh, the press would praise him for his professionalism and damn Clark for being an extremist and that just widened the gap between various people in Selma. And uh, uh, you know uh, this is some of the things, but uh, Clark…