Interview with Richard Valeriani


Richard Valeriani:

Well, I could talk about, talk about Marion. One night Chuck Quinn and I were covering the Selma events together and there was to be a nighttime march in Marion, Alabama. Nighttime marches were always dangerous, more dangerous than daytime marches and we were sending a film crew, and Quinn said, "There's a duplicate bridges tournament in Montgomery, why don't we go play?" And I said, "Well we have a film crew, I really, somebody ought to go, I'll go, I don't mind going." And so I went to Marion and the crowd was particularly nasty that night, and a lot of townspeople had gathered around, and we knew we were in for trouble right away because people came up and started spraying the cameras with paint. And then they'd insist put the cameras down. Luckily there were Alabama Highway Patrolmen there. I say luckily because if there had been no semblance of outside security, we would have been at the mercy of the townspeople I think. But we knew it was tough. So it was very tense and we were all very frightened and there was a nighttime march and, the cops went in and broke it up and that was the night that Jimmie Lee Jackson was shot. And I guess in the excitement somebody walked up behind me and hit me with an ax handle, hit me in the head with an ax handle. Now very luckily, he hit me with a roundhouse swing instead of an overhead swing, and he caught me on the bone here. Instead of crushing the top of my skull he hit me here, drew blood which required stitches, and I was taken to the hospital. But before I left a state trooper walked up, took the ax handle away from the guy who hit me, threw it on the steps of City Hall and said, "I guess you've done enough damage with this tonight," but did not arrest him. And then somebody walked up to me, a white man walked up to me and he, he said, "Are you hurt, do you need a doctor?" and I was stunned and I put my hand on the back of my head and it was full of blood. And I said to him, "Yeah, I think I do, I'm bleeding." And then he thrust his face right up against mine and he said, "Well, we don't have doctors for people like you."** And then my camera crew had arranged to get a car to take me off to the hospital, and I spent the night there. And the mayor came the next morning and apologized and the police chief, and they finally did arrest the guy after it had been sort of a national uproar.