Interview with Mayor Joseph Smitherman
QUESTION 31
INTERVIEWER:

HOW ABOUT THE WHITE CITIZENS' COUNCIL, DID THEY THREATEN YOU DURING THIS TIME TO KIND OF SUPPORT CLARK?

Mayor Joseph Smitherman:

Oh yes, it was political threats, economic threats, your friends were threatened uh, all of this economically. Economic threats were mainly what we had here, you know, uh, the whites would turn on you and not speak to you it was a bad feeling, uh, one day you was a hero and you know, you'd love to uh, see Martin Luther King would not break the law, we'd go down and stop him in the station area and we wanted to arrest him cause we wanted our hurrahs too. And we knew what Clark was going to do when he got to the courthouse and he was getting to be so popular locally and Alabama wide we'd say, what you in here breaking the law, you can't go. He said, tell me how I should go to the courthouse, I'm a law abiding man, I do not wish to break the law. Wilson Baker would tell him uh 2 and 3 down the sidewalk. He would very, with his demeanor and all, do that. Get to the courthouse you'd have one of his leaders react and you'd have a big scene – Clark would come out the hero to the local whites, but finally about the 16th day or whatever, I can't remember exactly, but uh, he told Wilson Baker I do not recognize your law, it's an unjust law. He already had his literature made out to be arrested in the Selma jail, I think he would have preferred the county jail, but uh, and you know to send out. And so he said, I do not recognize and so we arrested 284 and I'll never forget Baker said anybody knows why they're being, don't know why they're being arrested hold up their hand and about 20 did and told ‘em to go on home, but we put ‘em in jail and let all out but Martin Luther King and Rev. Abernathy, they refused to bond out. And then here comes the press and uh, he sends out his literature I mean, the Selma Jail and uh, so forth and so on. But uh, after about 5 or 6 days, I'm not sure, he did decide to get out he had accomplished his purpose on that day.