Interview with David J. Vann


David J. Vann:

I met with Dr. King in a private home, of John Drew. And we presented the settlement proposition to him. And he said that he thought — he really thought that that was a great achievement. And I remember him looking out the window and saying, I believe we'll all live to see the day when Birmingham becomes the symbol of good race — good race relations. But, he said, he couldn't agree as long as the jails were full. And, I think Robert Kennedy arranged for the auto workers' union to loan a local bonding company some $300,000, to put up as security, but the loan came as a loan to me. And Erskine Smith, another young lawyer, and it was seven years, I think before that was ever cleared up, and I was signed on a note for $300,000, which was put in a CD, and then the CD was used as the security, so we felt fairly safe, but the money couldn't be sent back to the auto workers until we had all these bonds cleared, and people had given fictitious names, fictitious addresses, and you know it was just a mess that almost never got cleared up, but I think finally, about seven years later, I was freed from that obligation. But after we had the chil— after we had all the people out of jail, then the question came, who's going to announce this. And I remember we were in a roomful of businessmen, I was — nobody was eager to go out and be the one who announced it publicly. And by god, Sid Smeyers says, if nobody else will do it, I'll do it. And he took it like that, you know. And we set up a system where Smeyer would have a press conference to announce the settlement, King would have a press conference, and I was in a little room in the Bankhead Hotel, and if King couldn't live with what Smeyers said, Andrew Young was to call me, and we would get a supplemental statement from Smeyers. If King said something that we absolutely couldn't live with, I was to call Andrew Young, and get a supplemental statement from King. As it turned out both men did their thing, and no supplemental statements were necessary.