Interview with Mayor Joseph Smitherman
QUESTION 2
INTERVIEWER:

OK, LET ME JUST JUMP IN HERE. CAN WE JUST STOP HERE FOR A MOMENT? I'D LIKE TO MOVE AHEAD NOW, YOU WERE NEWLY ELECTED WHEN ALL OF A SUDDEN THE KING CAMPAIGN GOT STARTED HERE, UH, WHAT WAS YOUR REACTION TO ALL OF THAT?

Mayor Joseph Smitherman:

Well, I was elected to the city council in 1960, which is a part-time legislative job. Out of 11 council members I was elected at age 30 to the City Council and it was all white obviously, and I was a rebel with those other council members and the former mayor because we all were segregationists but I was for, I really got in politics to try to get industry, pave the streets, streetlights, uh because segregation was not an issue, everybody was a segregationist, it was in politics, uh, so I was elected to the Council, I could do very little in, on the council and, I was determined I wanted to be the Mayor, that's where the, you had a lot of authority. So at age 34 I ran for the office of mayor and uniquely so, uh, while the black vote didn't amount to any percentage, we had about uh 9,000 white voters and about 200 black voters maybe, and so, uh, in fact you tried to run from the black voters. I believe not because of my racial views but because of progressive views for jobs, industry and things like this, I would have got what black vote was there, but I didn't solicit it or seek it. As opposed to now we do, but uh, and genuinely so, but uh, I ran for the office of Mayor and I, interestingly enough, Jim Clark backed me and Wilson Baker backed me. Jim Clark, the sheriff and the former police chief who had run against Clark, uh, backed me. And I put together a coalition of people from moderate, uh, low income moderate, middle income whites and some of the upper income financial institutions.