Interview with Mayor Joseph Smitherman
QUESTION 13
INTERVIEWER:

WELL LET ME ASK YOU ABOUT THIS, THIS WHOLE ISSUE OF VOTING RIGHTS, I MEAN THAT WAS REALLY A STATES ISSUE AT THAT TIME, DID YOU FEEL IT WAS UNFAIR THAT YOU BECAME A GOAT…

Mayor Joseph Smitherman:

Right, I mean, you've hit, the, you know they hit us this city, they hit this city for voting rights which, frankly we wouldn't have done it had we had the power, but we had no power to handle that. The sheriff had no power, that was in the Governor's hands. The Governor appoints three Board of Registrars that just happen to have an office at the County Courthouse and under state law, they could only register only on certain day, but that didn't really matter, they wouldn't have allowed blacks to register anyway, maybe one here or there. But we had no power to change that or, I don't think we would have if we had uh, and uh, neither did the sheriff or the probate judge, or whatever. And the Governor would dare not do it and we wouldn't have either. But the issue was that the state capitol, but uh, that came about later. They picked Selma just like a movie producer would pick a set. You had the right ingredients, I mean you would have to have seen Clark in his day, he had a helmet liner like General Patton, he had the clothes, the Eisenhower jacket and swagger stick and then Baker was very impressive, and I guess I was the least of all, I was 145 pounds and a crew cut and big ears. So you had a young mayor with no background or experience** or uh, I don't guess it would have counted had you had and you had this dynamic figure, Wilson Baker, a professional law enforcement officer a moderate, if you please, and you had Sheriff Clark that was a military figure uh, and you know that's quite a scene, and you had the old South, an example of the old South and here they came.