Interview with David J. Vann
QUESTION 14
INTERVIEWER:

I WOULD LIKE TO ASK YOU ABOUT SOMEONE, BECAUSE IT'S A NAME THAT SEEMS TO BE FAIRLY CONSPICUOUSLY MISSING IN YOUR CONVERSATION, AND THAT'S THE NAME OF FRED SHUTTLESWORTH. [cough]O.K. FRED SHUTTLESWORTH.

David J. Vann:

Well, Fred had been the head of the, I shouldn't say it that way—Well, Fred Shuttlesworth had been the principal civil rights activist leader in the City of Birmingham for a good number of years. Uh, And I think he Well, the Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth had been the principal civil rights leader here for a good number of years. And it is my understanding that he had invited Dr. King to come here. He was present at least some of our meetings, I don't recall how many, maybe all of them. But the primary actors were Andrew Young, who spoke for Dr. King, uh, Harold Long, who was – Congregational minister here who was the secretary of the meeting, uh, and while they were, perhaps, a good bit of participation, I think there really must have been some friction between the Shuttlesworth people and the King people. And I know that, uh, after we reached a settlement, and it looks like a molehill today, to say that we're going to take down the signs, have a 60-day cooling off period and desegregate lunch counters, and begin a program of employment in downtown Birmingham, with at least three clerks hired, I think somebody in New York asked Reverend Shuttlesworth did he – why he would settle for just three clerks in downtown Birmingham, he said, I meant three in every store. And, the thing almost came unglued.** Shuttlesworth also put out pamphlets to — urging all of the children to boycott the schools, and I remember the Mayor's office called me, and I had a little office down in the old Empire Building, but Bill Hamilton, who was the Mayor's Executive Secretary, asked me to meet him at the Episcopal Church, and I went up and he had these handbills, that Reverend Shuttlesworth had put out, to start the demonstrations all over again with the schoolchildren. And, uh, I got on the phone and called Andrew Young in Atlanta, and said, Andy, they got handbills out here that we think break the agreement. And, we need to talk to you. And he got on a plane, he was — must have been here within two hours. He looked at the handbills and said, yes, this certainly violates our agreement for a 60-day cooling off period. He got on the phone to Dr. King, and by 5 o'clock Dr. King was here. And he made a speech from the balcony of the Gaston Motel, with a courtyard full of high school kids, telling them that he wanted them to go back to school, said, if we're going to have a new world, you're going to have to have an education to participate in it. And they were, sort of hesitant to agree with him, you could see that they were enjoying their truancy. But uh, he kept going after them in his great, repetitive way, until he finally said, now are you with me? And they all said yes. And he had them all standing and cheering. Uh, and really that incident gave a lot of credibility to Dr. King, that he would back up an agreement that he had agreed to.