Interview with Mayor Joseph Smitherman
QUESTION 37
INTERVIEWER:

WELL, I, BUT NOT 65, THE VOTING RIGHTS ACT, THE 1964…

Mayor Joseph Smitherman:

Oh, well, when it came through few people obeyed it you know, and uh, few of the blacks had the courage to go in and integrate a restaurant and few blacks went to the theater, you had three floors, the ground floor, balcony for the whites, and thirdly you had a place for the blacks and they just continued to go there because they would get the economic pressure from various uh, groups, uh like your Citizens' Council and so forth that, you know you'll lose your job. Economic pressure. But you know, it's awfully hard in looking back in retrospect how you put economic pressure on somebody that's got no economics. But they'd try.[unintelligible background conversation] Well even in the 5Os as a merchant, or salesman of appliances, and okay, even in the 5Os as a merchant or salesman of appliances having grown up in a poor background with a widowed mother and blacks lived on the street behind me and all around me, and yet we were totally segregated I saw cruelty to blacks, I didn't like it, I, you'd feel ashamed of it, but you, there wasn't anything you could do, and even when I was in the appliance business uh, you know, you'd see these people that were good customers and when they were the only ones in the store you could be friends, and they can tell, you know, you can't fool people, they knew you were playing out a role and while I didn't believe in integration, I didn't believe in integration, uh I had a real, uh, I think a common bond with the black people and I think they could tell it and they knew it, they knew who had to act out what and I think had they had the right to vote, and certainly even though there weren't but about 150 in Selma that vote, I think I got the majority of those that voted because, they saw the things that I was for, industry, paved streets and these are the very things that would benefit low and middle income whites which was my coalition but it would also help the blacks and so yes uh, now we go among the blacks and seek their vote, and uh, you know I can do things now that I couldn't do then, uh, this is…