Interview with Mayor Joseph Smitherman
QUESTION 14
INTERVIEWER:

ALRIGHT LET ME, LET ME JUST [unintelligible] NOW, YOU WERE A BIG SUPPORTED OF GEORGE WALLACE, WHY COULDN'T YOU JUST GET ON THE PHONE AND SAY, GEORGE, GEORGE THEY'RE BEATING ME ABOUT THE EARS, CAN'T YOU JUST OPEN THESE DAMN OFFICES SO THAT THEY CAN REGISTER VOTERS FASTER?

Mayor Joseph Smitherman:

Well the reason I couldn't get Gov, Wallace to change, that's why he's Governor now and uh, it wasn't time for him to change and he would, he would say it's a local issue, but don't allow violence because if you do we'll have to send the National Guard in and uh, President Johnson will mobilize them and you'll have United States Army in control and I don't want the Army in charge of one of my cities in my state. And uh, he said I want you fellas to keep, keep control and he knew it was division over here but Clark was so popular and even his Public Safety or Trooper Director, the late I.O. Lingo, Clark really dominated him and we'd uh, of course the Governor was supporting my efforts, and Wilson Baker's efforts, but he didn't want to have a public issue with Jim Clark, he had become that big and he wanted to fire his Highway Director, I mean, uh, the Trooper Director but he couldn't because, because of Clark, they had the support of the Citizens Council throughout Alabama. And he wasn't ready to make the issue. He finally did almost make the issue after the incident at the foot of the bridge. But we, you know, they used to call me uh, Clark would call for 50 troopers, or 100 troopers cause they would come under Lingo who had controlled all that and uh, I'd call the Governor and the Governor finally made a policy he wouldn't send ‘em unless me and Clark both and we'd argue back and forth I'd say, we don't need ‘em, and, but then you'd worry what if something did happen and I'd say, well send 10 and we'd finally work it out and get 50 you know, Clark wanted 100 and I didn't want any, but I'd say 25 and we'd compromise on 50. And then they'd turn on the sirens and head over here and it created an atmosphere.