Interview with David J. Vann
QUESTION 25
INTERVIEWER:

OKAY, IT JUST SEEMED TO BE VERY NATURAL THAT YOU WOULD HAVE BEEN VERY UPSET WITH KING BECAUSE HE REALLY DID MAKE BIRMINGHAM LOOK VERY BAD AND YOU WERE CERTAINLY NOT BAD.

David J. Vann:

Well, I want to make it clear. I wasn't mad at Dr. King because he made Birmingham look bad. I was upset with Dr. King because he wouldn't give us a chance to prove what we could do through the political processes. And a year and a day after Conner had been elected with the largest vote in history, we, a majority of the people in this city voted to terminate his office. And when he ran for mayor they rejected him.** And we felt that our next step, we had met with black leaders. Mayor Boutwell had made very definite commitments on hiring some black police officers. Participation in government by the black community. Uh, and we really felt it was most unfair not to let us prove what we could do with the political process. I became philosophical about it later and realized that King's campaign wasn't a campaign against Birmingham. It was a campaign not even against the South. It was a campaign against America. Because what was done by law in Alabama was done de facto in New York, and Chicago and Detroit and San Francisco and throughout this country. In fact I think the experience we had in resolving these problems in beginning a process of local resolve created a bond between white people and black people in this city, unlike any other city in the country. When Dr. King was assassinated, all across this country, starting in Washington all the way to Watts, cities burned. People were so angry they burned cities down. In Birmingham we had a memorial march the next morning from the 16th Street Baptist Church to the steps of the Jefferson county court house, with white Bishops and black Bishops and leaders of the government, marching together in commemoration of the loss of a man who had been very important in the history of our city. Attitudes that really changed dramatically, and I think the fact that there was virtually no violence in this city in the reflection of the assassination and particularly when the word came out later that the gun might have even been secured right here in Birmingham that assassinated him. Uh, I think those reactions, really, uh, demonstrated the tremendous depth of effort that had gone throughout this community.