Interview with Wyatt Tee Walker
QUESTION 31
TEAM B MEMBER:

LET ME HOP IN HERE [unintelligible]…AND THAT IS BOTH IN ALBANY AND IN BIRMINGHAM, THE PRESS CLEARLY PLAYED A ROLE. ANY QUICK COMMENTS ON THE ROLE OF THE PRESS IN THOSE TWO?

Wyatt Tee Walker:

Well, the press played a far more crucial role in Birmingham than they did in Albany. At the Albany stage of the non-violent movement in the South, the press didn't understand what was going on. They thought Dr. King was a trouble-maker and, I mean these are mostly southern guys, you know. And for the most part they were guys, they—I can't remember seeing a female reporter, see. By the time we got to Birmingham that crust of their southernness was beginning to crack with what they saw. And Birmingham, with its raw and brutal terror on black folks and its history. I saw a CBS camera - I'll never forget one - Larry Pierce with tears running out of his eyes when he saw what they did to the children and the young folks and turning the dogs and whatnot. And I think we had a lot of converts in the press corps at Birmingham, such as we had never had before or since. I mean if they didn't get with this movement at, at Birmingham, they probably never did get with it. One of the people that I remember, well, I can call several names. One you'll know, Dan Rather…

[unintelligible]

Wyatt Tee Walker:

…Herb Kaplow, Bruce Golfan of The New York Times who was a segre—a mild segregationist at heart, but when he got ready to get a Neiman fellowship he asked Dr. King to write a letter of recommendation. That's how much he had changed. Eugene Patterson, who was one time the editor of _The Constitution_, _The Atlanta Constitution_, did almost a 360 degree turn. I just thought of another piece. I don't know whether I'll give it to you. I can't think of the rabbi's name. He was the reigning rabbi of Atlanta in 1961, '62, when Ivan Allen succeeded Hartsfield as mayor. He served as the broker to get Ivan Allen, the new mayor, an avowed segregationist, in a meeting with Martin Luther King, Jr. Ivan Allen will tell you this. Ivan Allen said that after a half an hour in Dr. King's presence all of the segregationist feelings that he had just peeled right away. And as you know, Ivan Allen became one of the heroic political figures of the South. Andover Hartsfield Airport. I was being paged. Early that day Mrs. King had had John Lindsay call me and ask me would I come down and take care of the, the organization of the funeral business. And when I answered the page it was Ivan Allen on the phone, who had been, I had been his chief protagonist, in the early in his Mayorality. And he said, "Wyatt, I just wanted to make sure you were in town. I know that now that you're here everything's going to be alright." So it's, it's interesting that the power and influence of a man like Martin Luther King, Jr., which of course was incorporated into the movement that he led and symbolized.