Production Team: B
Interview Date: February 18, 1986
Camera Rolls: 393-396
Sound Rolls: 1342-1344
Produced by Blackside, Inc.
Housed at the Washington University Film and Media Archive, Henry Hampton Collection.
Interview with Colonel Floyd Mann, conducted by Blackside, Inc. on February 18, 1986, for Eyes on the Prize: America's Civil Rights Years (1954-1965). Washington University Libraries, Film and Media Archive, Henry Hampton Collection.
These transcripts contain material that did not appear in the final program. Only text appearing in bold italics was used in the final version of Eyes on the Prize.
Sound Roll 1342, Camera Roll 393. Program 3, first sound take will be 1
FIRST OF ALL, WHAT WAS YOUR RESPONSIBILITY IN ‘60, 61, YOUR JURISDICTION, WHAT WERE YOU DOING IN THE ALABAMA STATE GOV'T?
In 1961, I was the director of the Alabama State Police which includes Alabama State troopers, state investigators, 2 or 3 other divisions.
WHEN DID YOU FIRST HEAR ABOUT THE FREEDOM RIDERS COMING INTO ALABAMA AND WHAT WAS YOUR, WHAT WAS THE FEELING IN THE STATE, NOT AMONG OFFICIALS, BUT LOCAL PEOPLE?
Well, of course it was something new, we picked up rumors several weeks prior to them arriving in Alabama. Uh, also it was a certain something that the state police had not been confronted with in the past. We'd had local demonstrations by local people and, but this was the first time we'd had an interstate movement on the part of people. It was testing such things as uh lunch counters, water fountains, restrooms, so we knew that it would be a in all probability a, a police problem.
TELL ME A LITTLE BIT MORE ABOUT HOW PEOPLE IN ALABAMA FELT ABOUT UM, FREEDOM RIDERS, GIVE ME AN IDEA OF WHAT THE LOCAL FEELING WAS.
Well, at that point in time, what you could hear more than anything else was that this was uh, outsiders coming into the state. Uh …
I'M SORRY COULD YOU MENTION THE WORD FREEDOM RIDERS SOMEWHERE IN THERE, JUST SO I GET THAT?… WE KNOW WHO YOU'RE TALKING ABOUT.
At this point in time, the uh, most people in Alabama, uh, that you'd hear speaking about this, thought the freedom riders were a group of people that—outsiders that were coming into the state that was uh, uh, coming to the state to cause problems. That's what the uh, average person was saying around in Alabama at that time.
UH, WHAT ABOUT THE CLIMATE UH, COMING OUT OF THE GOVERNOR'S CAMPAIGN IN 1958?
Well, I'm sure that this uh, this also had a bearing because we had had an election uh, in 1958, whereby both Governor Wallace and uh, John Patterson uh, was running against each other for governor, and of course the segregation issue at that time was uh, a strong issue in the race, very strong issue, and uh different groups of people were supporting different candidates because of uh, those issues.
CAN YOU GET MORE SPECIFIC ON THAT, LIKE WHAT SORT OF ATTITUDES WERE TAKEN BY BOTH PATTERSON AND WALLACE.
Well uh, let me say this, I think both Patterson and Wallace would have both uh enjoyed having the support of the Ku Klux Klan if that answers your question.
OK LET'S CUT RIGHT THERE.
OK SO I'M GOING TO BACKTRACK A LITTLE BIT. JUST GIVE ME AN IDEA OF WHAT THE UH, CHOICE WAS FOR THE PEOPLE OF ALABAMA IN THAT ELECTION, ‘58, ‘59.
Well, in the 1958 election in the Governor's race, uh, you had a, the race was being run by Governor George Wallace and John Patterson. Uh, Governor John Patterson's father had been assassinated in Phoenix city, Alabama uh, as a result of having been elected Attorney General and he was elected on a campaign to clean up vice and corruption in Phoenix City which had been involved with crime for many years. Before he was able to take office uh, he was assassinated. The Democratic Party then named his son …
LET ME STOP YOU RIGHT THERE. LET'S, LET'S CUT FOR A SECOND. I'M GOING TO HAVE TO UM …
…ABOUT PHOENIX CITY WON'T EVER MAKE IT IN THE FILM.
Ok, well, ask me the question again.
OK, so you don't want Phoenix City in the film.
I DON'T THINK, I DON'T THINK IT WILL MAKE IT. SO UH, JUST GIVE ME AN IDEA OF WHAT THE CHOICES WERE FOR THE VOTER IN 58 ELECTION IN ALABAMA.
Well, in the 1958 Governor's election, the choices was Governor John Patterson or Governor George Wallace. Both uh, at that time, segregation in Alabama was a political uh, issue. And I believe at that point in time in Alabama, to those candidates it was very important that they receive support from people who felt very strongly on this issue. And so you will know more of what I mean, I'm talking uh about groups like the Ku Klux Klan, that type of people, because you have to remember at that point in time, in Alabama politics, that was before the voting act, so uh, how other people felt at that time was not of a great concern of people running for Governor.
OK LET'S CUT THERE. I THINK I'M GOING TO HAVE TO UM …
SO LET'S UH, JUST RIGHT WHERE YOU STARTED BEFORE IN THE 58 ELECTION.
YEAH, GO AHEAD.
Well, in the governor's election in 1958, two candidates, Governor John Patterson and Governor George Wallace were the candidates. At that time in Alabama, segregation was an issue, a very burning issue apparently and uh it became very competitive on the part of both Patterson and Wallace to try to get the support of uh people who felt very strongly about these issues because as you are aware, uh black people, not many black people could vote in Alabama at that point in time. So uh, it's very evident to me that who won the Governor's race at that point in time would be the people who could uh muster the most uh white support.
OK, THAT'S GOOD. AND UM, SO, I'M SORRY LET'S CUT. LET ME JUST TAKE A BREAK HERE.
WHEN THE FREEDOM RIDERS CAME INTO THE STATE, THEY LEFT ATLANTA ON MAY 14. THERE WAS AN OFFICIAL ON THE BUS, JUST EXPLAIN UH, WHO THAT PERSON WAS AND WHY HE WAS ON THE BUS?
Well, we knew that the bus was going to be coming into Alabama from Atlanta, we did not have any communications or any uh, information from those people about what route they'd be taking in Alabama, so we decided that for the benefit of the state police and also to try to protect this bus and the people on the bus, it would be important for us to have some type of information. So we sent one of the state investigators, a Mr. L. Cowden to Atlanta to board that bus. Uh, this was on Sunday, I remember, New Years Day of 1961.
LET'S STOP FOR A SECOND, I THINK, UH, LET'S CUT FOR A SECOND. NEW YEAR'S DAY?
We knew that it would be very important for the state police to know what route these people were going to take when they arrived in Alabama. So we thought it would be a good idea to send a state investigator to Atlanta to board this bus. And Mothers Day 1961 was when they arrived in Alabama; Anniston, Alabama. While this bus was in Anniston, uh, the Ku Klux Klan and other members surrounded that bus and would not let the people off the bus. While it was in the bus station they also cut the tires on the bus. They knew that those tires would go down, so when the bus left Anniston toward Birmingham, the Klan followed the bus out on the highway. ‘scuse me a minute I need a little drink of water.
SURE LET'S CUT.
OK, UM, LET'S SEE, WHY DON'T YOU JUST KEEP GOING RIGHT WHERE YOU LEFT OFF.
Several miles out of Anniston, the tire went down on the bus. The bus stopped. The Klan had followed the bus to this point. At that point they set the bus on fire, the Klansmen did. Those people on the bus could not get off the bus, and if we had not had the state investigator on the bus, I think everyone on the bus would have burned to death. But the investigator unlocked the door and pulled his gun and showed his badge and made the people back up and got the people off the bus. From that point they scattered around where the bus was burning and the more troopers arrived and then another bus arrived and they took that group on into Birmingham, where another outbreak occurred.
WON'T YOU DESCRIBE THAT OUTBREAK?
Well, I was not there, I just had reports of what had happened. Several people were beaten, and some knocked unconscious.
LET ME STOP YOU RIGHT THERE. WHY DON'T YOU BEGIN IN, BY SAYING— WELL I DON'T WANT TO CUT ACTUALLY.
OH, I'M SORRY.
THAT'S OK, UM …
SO WE'RE IN BIRMINGHAM NOW.
So that's when uh, several other things occurred, another riot broke out at the bus station in Birmingham, several people were beaten, some knocked unconscious, it became generally known as the Mother's Day Massacre in Alabama.
Well, because of the people that was hurt and how they were treated at the bus station.
CAN YOU DESCRIBE LIKE WHAT HAPPENED AT BIRMINGHAM?
Well, uh at that point in time uh, it was just totally something new to law enforcement in Alabama. Uh, what was happening and why it was happening and it caught them, the police departments and people off guard. Uh, they had, certainly had not been trained for this type of thing, the police, deputies and what have you. So uh, I think the best way to tell you that uh, the people that was handling the situation there were people that had rather that bus had never come to Alabama.
WHAT ABOUT BULL CONNOR? DIDN'T, DOESN'T HE HAVE …
He was police commissioner at that time, uh Police Commissioner Bull Connor was in charge of the police department in Birmingham at that time.
BUT DIDN'T PEOPLE LATER SAY THAT HE SHOULD BE HELD ACCOUNTABLE FOR THE FACT THAT THERE WERE NO POLICE THERE?
Well, uh sure, people did say that, of course you have to bring, people that was in charge of a situation like that whether things are happening good or bad, you have to hold those people accountable for them.
EYES ON THE PRIZE. WE'RE IN MONTGOMERY, ALABAMA. THE DATE IS 2/18/86. THIS IS HEAD OF SOUND ROLL 1343… THIS IS CAMERA ROLL 394, SOUND ROLL 1343. WE'RE ON SOUND TAKE 9. COLONEL FLOYD MANN. SOUND TAKE NINE.
Well, to my best …
WAIT, WAIT, JUST HOLD ON ONE SECOND, JUST GOTTA FOCUS. OK, GO AHEAD.
To my best recollection when the uh, bus arrived in Birmingham, I was informed that there was either no policemen or too few policemen there to handle the situation. Many people were hurt, injured, some seriously and uh, what happened after that at that point in time to the people on the bus, I do not know, but I think they were all at some point carried to a central location.
WHAT ABOUT BULL CONNOR'S . . .?
He was in charge, Bull Connor was in charge of the uh, police department in Birmingham at that point in time. He was police commissioner.
WHAT WAS HIS COMMENT ON THE WHOLE THING?
Well, his comment was that it was just absolutely ridiculous for those people to be in Alabama doing what they were doing.
OK UH, LET'S CUT RIGHT THERE. UM …
SOUND TAKE TEN.
LET ME GET SETTLED DOWN HERE. OK FOLKS, IT'S ALL YOURS.
After what happened in Anniston, Alabama and Birmingham, as director of public safety, I certainly knew that we had a tremendous problem on our hands. So did the governor, so did Attorney General Kennedy apparently, because at that point in time, he began to send uh people into Alabama, like Mr. John Siegenthaler, also uh, Mr. Whizzel White, who's now a member of the Supreme Court, and others. So uh we began to try to develop some plan to get those people in and out of Alabama into Montgomery and on into Mississippi. So there were several meetings held, one in the Governors office, where I, Mr. John Siegenthaler attended, where he wanted the assurance from the governor that uh, law and order would prevail in the state. Governor Patterson had uh certainly been elected as a law and order candidate, and I felt at that point in time, even though the political situation was such that I understood the situation that Governor Patterson was in politically. I also felt that Governor Patterson felt that I would make sure law and order did prevail in Alabama. So I assured Mr. Siegenthaler at that point in time that I felt that uh, we could keep law and order in Alabama.
TELL ME A BIT MORE ABOUT THE MEETING. UH, WASN'T KENNEDY TRYING TO GET GOVERNOR PATTERSON ON THE PHONE DIRECTLY AND …
I'd, I had heard that uh, several attempts had been made to contact the Governor by the Attorney General which had failed.
UH, FAILED WHY?
Well uh, Governor Patterson either did not take the call or was unable to be found. I don't know.
OK, UM, NOW TELL ME A LITTLE BIT MORE ABOUT SOME, UH LET'S CUT HERE, I'M SORRY.
SOUND TAKE ELEVEN. COLONEL FLOYD MANN. SOUND TAKE ELEVEN.
JUST BEGIN TO TELL ME A LITTLE BIT ABOUT GOVERNOR PATTERSON'S POSITION.
Well, Governor Patterson at that time was in a, in my opinion a terrible political situation because uh, the very people who had so actively supported him strongly and openly were some of the people that was uh, really uh, very critical of these people coming into Alabama, the freedom riders, so I felt like that uh in all probability, Governor Patterson was in a situation whereby, that uh, he had rather not make a commitment to the Government, in view of the situation he was in in Alabama.
COULD YOU JUST SAY THAT AGAIN, GOVERNOR PATTERSON COULDN'T MAKE A COMMITMENT TO GLIARTANTEE THE SAFETY OF …
Right, I don't think he wanted to make that commitment at that point in time.
WHY DON'T YOU UH, SAY ON CAMERA WHAT THE COMMITMENT WAS SO, BECAUSE THEY WON'T, THE AUDIENCE WON'T HEAR WHEN YOU SAY THIS.
Well, at that point in time, I think the Attorney General was uh, wanting to get Governor Patterson publicly committed to guaranteeing the safety of these people throughout Alabama and politically a speaking I felt that Governor Patterson did not want to make a public commitment.
OK, THAT'S GOOD. WHAT DO YOU THINK THE KENNEDY'S, UH, BOTH ROBERT AND JOHN KENNEDY'S SAW GOVERNOR PATTERSON'S RESPONSIBILITY AS? HOW DO YOU THINK THEY VIEWED IT?
Well, I think uh they both used his responsibility…
I'M SORRY I HAVE TO CUT YOU OFF, MAKE SURE YOU MENTION THE KENNEDY'S. YOU WERE TALKING ABOUT …
Well, I think both President Kennedy and the Attorney General Robert Kennedy felt that Governor Patterson as Governor of Alabama, should have no hesitancy at that time in making that commitment but I really don't think either one of them understood uh the position that the governor was in in Alabama politically, with his own constituency.
TELL ME MORE ABOUT THE CONSTITUANCY, WHAT THEY WOULD HAVE DONE.
Well, uh, at this point in time, I don't know uh what his constituency would have done and I don't think uh Governor Patterson knew at that time. Looking back on it, I don't think it would have mattered what they would have done.
SO YOU THINK THE GOVERNOR COULD HAVE TAKEN SOME LEAD IN THIS?
Probably, and in all probability he wishes today that he had.
I'M SORRY WHY DON'T YOU START AGAIN AND JUST EXPLAIN THAT, BECAUSE THE AUDIENCE WON'T HEAR ME …
I say, I don't know what his constituency, what their reaction would have been, uh, and I don't think the Governor knows either, at this point in time, but now in 1986, I think the Governor may have handled that totally different.
UM, LET'S CUT FOR A SECOND. LET ME JUST SEE WHERE WE'RE AT.
THIS IS SOUND TAKE TWELVE.
OK, WHY DON'T YOU START WHERE YOU DID JUST NOW.
I think Governor Patterson felt that the freedom riders were being encouraged and supported by the Kennedy's in this effort, and I think he resented that.
Well, I think he felt that they probably should have given him as Governor more consideration, especially since he was one of the first Governors in the South that came out openly for President Kennedy.
BUT HOW, OK LET ME JUST KEEP ROLLING HERE. HOW COULD PATTERSON UM JUSTIFY UH, SAYING THOUGH THAT HE COULDN'T PROTECT THESE PEOPLE?
Well, I think he was saying that more for the press.
I'M SORRY, BE SURE YOU MENTION HIS NAME.
I think Governor Patterson was saying that more for the press, that he couldn't protect them, more than the actual protection of those people, because as I stated a while ago, I believe that Governor Patterson knew that the state police was going to do their job.
OK. UM LET'S CUT FOR A SECOND. UM.
AND THIS IS A DIFFERENT KIND OF QUESTION BUT SOME PEOPLE SAY THAT MORALLY GOVERNOR PATTERSON HAD A RESPONSIBILITY TO UPHOLD THE RIGHTS OF THE FREEDOM RIDERS TO COME THROUGH THE STATE OF ALABAMA, WHAT DO YOU THINK OF THE MORALITY OF THIS WHOLE THING. GOVERNOR PATTERSON'S POSITION. BECAUSE THEY WERE TESTING A FEDERAL LAW.
Well, I Think Governor Patterson at that time disagreed with what they were doing, totally.
WITH WHO, WHY DON'T YOU START AGAIN.
I think Governor Patterson at that time disagreed totally with what the freedom riders were doing and what they were trying to prove, because I, in my own mind, at that time, just remembering the uh transaction between he and the government, I think he felt that this was an effort to uh bring this type of publicity on the state and also to put him in a very awkward position politically.
OK WHAT ABOUT THE CONFLICT BETWEEN THE ATTORNEY GENERAL AND, AND GOVERNOR PATTERSON AS, AS THE, THE CONFLICT BETWEEN THE STATE AND FEDERAL GOVERNMENT, CAN YOU JUST ELABORATE ON THAT? WHAT WAS THE ISSUE REALLY HERE?
Well, I think the issue between Governor Patterson and the Attorney General was the uh, the issue of publicly uh trying to get a commitment from the governor to protect these people while they were in Alabama. And I don't think the Governor ever did want to go on record of giving a commitment to him about that.
UM, OK, WHAT WERE THE PLANS NOW UH TO GUARANTEE UH THE FREEDOM RIDERS WOULD MAKE IT FROM BIRMINGHAM TO MONTGOMERY, WHAT WAS …
Well, the state, the state police and Mr. Siegenthaler, along with other governmental officials, maybe some marshals, assistants, we determined that the best way and the safest way to get those people into Montgomery and on into Mississippi, was to make certain that uh, they were protected. So when they left Birmingham we had 16 highway patrol cars in front of that bus, and 16 patrol cars behind the bus, with troopers, also we had small aircraft running uh, reconnaissance, watching for bridges, where someone might try to sabotage that bus. During that period of time, I received some confidential information that when they arrived at the bus station in Montgomery that the police had planned to take a holiday uh, there'd be no one present. So we made uh, sure that uh, we didn't want to get in that situation so we ordered a hundred state troopers into Montgomery immediately. And we quartered those troopers at the Alabama police academy because we didn't want to bring them into the bus station because at that point in time in Alabama the state police never entered a city unless they were invited. Either it became obvious that law and order had totally broken down…
THIS IS FILM ROLL 395, WE'RE STILL ON SOUND ROLL 1343, WE'RE ON SOUND TAKE FOURTEEN, FOURTEEN.
It was a policy of the state police in 1961 not to ever enter a city unless they were invited or either it became very apparent that law and order had broken down. So at the time the bus arrived at the Montgomery bus station, only the assistant director Mr. W.R. Jones and myself was there when the bus arrived. As soon as the people began to get off the bus I noticed these strange people all around the bus which I knew immediately they were Klansmen. No sooner than they had gotten off the bus a riot evolved. At that point in time it certainly became obvious to me that law and order had broken down and there's no police around the bus station. So we immediately sent for those hundred state troopers that we had quartered at the police academy. And prior to them arriving there, several people hurt and we had to command cars to take some to the hospital.
DESCRIBE THE SCENE A LITTLE BIT WHEN YOU APPARENTLY HAD TO FIRE YOUR GUN, DESCRIBE EXACTLY WHAT YOU DID ON THE SCENE …
Well there was people being beat with baseball bats …
SORRY START AGAIN.
OK. Those freedom riders, some of them were being beaten with baseball bats, some of the newspeoples' cameras were being crushed. Therefore we did have to resort to pulling out weapons, to uh, stop that and also to get some of those people to the hospital.
WHAT DID YOU DO?
Well, we had to threaten to take some lives of ourselves, unless that violence stopped immediately.
DID YOU PULL A GUN OUT YOURSLEF?
WHY DON'T YOU DESCRIBE THAT.
Well uh, there's nothing really to describe except I just put my pistol to the head of one or two of those folks who was using baseball bats and told them unless they stopped immediately uh, they was going to be hurt. And it did stop immediately.
TELL ME A LITTLE BIT ABOUT THE SCENE AT THE BUS STATION, CAN YOU JUST DESCRIBE IT, AS THE FREEDOM RIDERS ARE COMING OUT THEY'RE BLACK AND WHITE, MEN AND WOMEN AT THIS POINT RIGHT?
That's right, and newspaper people and just mobs of people began to appear.
I'M SORRY LET ME BACK UP AND START YOU AGAIN.
Well, when they began to get off the bus, people began to attack them, and looked like it just coming out of all, everywhere, just mobs of people began to appear at the bus station, that's when we immediately sent for the 100 state troopers, but before they could arrive, uh cars were set on fire, people were attacked. Newspaper people were beaten, their cameras bursted. But uh, after the uh troopers arrived law and order was restored and we marched those people to a church. At this point in time Governor Patterson decided that we needed to call, we needed to have martial law in Montgomery, Alabama.
FEBRUARY 18th, 1986. WE'RE INTERVIEWING COLONEL FLOYD MANN IN MONTGOMERY, ALABAMA. WE'RE ON CAMERA ROLL 394, SOUND ROLL 1344, SOUND TAKE FIFTEEN IS UP. FIFTEEN.
After one of the freedom riders were knocked unconscious we got him to a car, sent him to the hospital. Then it was called to my attention that another person had been knocked unconscious and had been taken to the hospital and I retrieved his credentials and they, I think they had fallen out of his pocket in front of the bus station, and looking at those credentials I saw it was Mr. John Siegenthaler. After the troopers got things totally under control at the bus station, I then went to the hospital to verify if it was Mr. Siegenthaler and it was Mr. Siegenthaler and he'd been knocked unconscious.
ONE QUICK QUESTION, ABOUT UH, AT THE MEETINGS PRIOR TO MONTGOMERY, THE WHOLE UH, YOUR FEELINGS ON THIS WHOLE QUESTION OF STATE VERSUS FEDERAL RESPONSIBILITY, AND WHAT THE REAL ISSUES WERE HERE.
Well, I certainly knew, as director of public safety my responsibility was law and order and to protect those people. I certainly in those meeting that I attended with the Governor and also representatives from the Attorney General's office in Washington that I also got the impression that uh, certainly a lot of their concerns were political. Both state and national, so therefore uh, I uh certainly decided that my best course was to follow my responsibility and to try to keep law and order in Alabama, which I certainly did try.
WHAT ABOUT GOVERNOR PATTERSON THOUGH, HE SAID HE FELT THE FEDERALS PEOPLE WERE HONING IN ON HIS TURF, IS THAT A REAL ISSUE OR NOT?
Well, he certainly, made that statement both privately,
The, Governor Patterson certainly made the statement both privately and publicly that he felt that the government was intruding in Alabama. And of course the Attorney General and uh others from the Attorney Generals office uh also was saying that their only concern was to get these people in and out of Alabama, and seeing that their rights were not violated.
DO YOU THINK GOVERNOR PATTERSON WAS PLAYING A POLITICAL GAME OF HIS OWN?
Uh, I wouldn't know.
OK, UH, LET'S CUT.
TAKE SIXTEEN, SIXTEEN, MARKER.
OK, JUST GIVE ME IN A FEW SENTENCES UH, A BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF SIEGENTHALER IN THAT MEETING IF YOU REMEMBER HIM, THAT MEETING IN MONTGOMERY. JUST A COUPLE OF SENTENCES. REMEMBER?
Well, Mr. Siegenthaler was uh kind of like myself, he was there to totally represent the feelings of the Attorney General and the government and I was really impressed with Mr. Siegenthaler's uh, seemingly sincere efforts to resolve this matter. And uh, he pushed real hard to get an answer about uh could he guarantee this, could the governor guarantee the safety of these people. The Governor was just as uh, adamant not to give that commitment, so at that point in time I certainly felt that uh, by having been appointed by the Governor that I certainly should assure them at that time that I felt that uh law and order could prevail in Alabama.**
GREAT OK, UH, AGAIN JUST A FEW QUESTIONS, UM I MEAN IN A FEW SENTENCES. DURING THE NIGHT OF MAY 21, WHEN THE MOB SURROUNDED THE CHURCH, UM THE FIRST BAPTIST CHURCH HERE, AND UH MARSHALS, U.S. MARSHALS ARE TRYING TO HOLD BACK THE CROWD, AT THAT POINT WHY DID GOVERNOR PATTERSON DECLARE MARTIAL LAW AND BRING IN THE NATIONAL GUARD?
Well, I felt like the Governor Patterson declared martial law for two reasons. One was to uh, make certain that those people were not harmed and another was to regain control of the situation because it, uh, the U.S. marshals had been ordered into Alabama. And I certainly felt at that point in time that uh, the Governor by ordering martial law, that he would regain control of the situation so far as uh being in control of what happened in Montgomery, Alabama.
DESCRIBE THE SCENE, VERY BRIEFLY OUTSIDE THE CHURCH.
Well, the outside the church, the crowd just continued to build and uh at one time there was just thousands of people were there and I think those marshals, some of them were just about inexperienced at handling a crowd like that as some of the police were in Alabama, and they began to throw teargas, and they threw it against the wind. And the gas began to uh affect the marshals more than it was the people that they were trying to control. So we just had an awful situation there for a while.
WHAT WAS HAPPENING INSIDE THE CHURCH AS FAR AS YOU KNEW?
Inside the church was just singing and uh, uh, just trying to enjoy themselves. Singing with them, because I went in with General Graham at the time we read the decree for martial law and it was totally orderly and seemed like they were just enjoying being together.
WHAT WAS THE FEELING YOU GOT ABOUT, WAS THERE A FEELING OF VICTORY IN THE CHURCH, OR SOMETHING HAD BEEN …
Well, I felt that uh they certainly felt that they had got the attention that uh not only they wanted, but needed at that time.
UM, WHY DON'T YOU SAY THAT AGAIN AND SAY WHO WE'RE TALKING ABOUT, THAT THE PEOPLE INSIDE THE CHURCH ARE, CAN YOU JUST SAY IT AGAIN?
The freedom riders with their supporters inside the church.
AND I'M SORRY START AGAIN. WHAT WAS THE WHOLE …
Well, at the time that General Graham and myself went in to declare martial law on the part of the Governor, the church was absolutely packed with people. And there was nothing panicky about the crowd, they seemed to be enjoying themselves. We had ordered the National Guard to make coffee and bring doughnuts for the people inside the church and they were serving those doughnuts and coffee at the time we were reading the decree. So I felt that there was certainly no uneasiness at that point in time by the group because they knew the National Guard was there and the marshals and state police and city police.
HOW DID YOU GET THEM OUT OF THE CHURCH THEN IN THE MORNING?
In the morning to get those, to get them out of the church into the homes they were staying in, instead of taking them as a group, one group, we let them go in uh, small numbers, protected by guardsmen and police. So it was not at any time get a huge crowd at one time, so we just let them uh go to their homes in small groups.
OK, UH, LET'S CUT THERE. OK.
SOUND TAKES FIFTEEN AND SIXTEEN ARE ON CAMERA ROLL 395. THIS IS SOUND TAKE 17 AND IT WILL BE ON CAMERA ROLL 396, SEVENTEEN.
OK SO, MY NEXT QUESITON IS A LITTLE MORE GENERAL, WHAT DO YOU THINK WERE SOME OF THE IMMEDIATE RESULTS OF THE FREEDOM RIDES AS THEY CONTINUED THROUGHOUT THE SUMMER.
Well, thanks to a great friend of mine and a great man, Judge Frank Johnson, he uh issued orders and put the police departments under restraining orders and what have you where it became uh the, the enforcement problem almost disappeared after he threatened to put some police officials in jail. If any uh interference with interstate travel was bothered again.
AND WHAT HAPPENED AS A RESULT OF THE FREEDOM RIDES IN TERMS OF PUBLIC ACCOMODATIONS.
Well, as a result, uh now, those things that they were testing, at that time, like drinking fountains, rest rooms, lunch counters, restaurants, they can go anywhere they want to in Alabama.
DID THAT, DID YOU SEE THAT CHANGING THAT SUMMER, OR, I MEAN CAN YOU TELL ME A LITTLE BIT WHAT HAPPENED, JUNE, JULY OR AUGUST AS THE FREEDOM RIDERS KEPT COMING THROUGH AND THESE CASES STARTED BUILDING UP?
Well uh, that was, there's many, many things was a spin off from those freedom riders, that's why I think probably that was the most, probably significant event that's other than the boycott in the Civil Rights Movement, because the spin-off from that was a result of lunch counters, rest rooms all being integrated, uh universities being integrated, all those things, were a, seemed like kind of a spin-off from that freedom rider movement.
GREAT, OK, AND WHAT ABOUT THE, DID YOU HEAR ANYTHING ABOUT THE SPECIFIC ICC RULINGS THAT CAME OUT? THOSE LAWS THAT CAME OUT UH THAT GUARANTEED THAT UH PUBLIC ACCOMODATIONS …
Oh, yes, I've heard much about it, that's why I mentioned Judge Frank Johnson, because Judge Frank Johnson uh made certain those laws were enforced and people that was charged with the responsibility of enforcing those laws, knew that Judge Johnson meant that.
WHICH LAWS? I'M SORRY CAN YOU JUST?
The enforcement of the, of the laws which broke down the segregation barriers like lunch counters, restrooms, water fountains, going to school, that type of thing.
OK LET'S CUT RIGHT THERE.
EIGHTEEN. THIS IS EIGHTEEN.
THESE ARE TWO QUESTIONS. ONE IS AT THAT MEETING IN, UH, MONTGOMERY, AT THE GOVERNOR'S MANSION, WHAT, WHAT WAS IT THAT, YOU KNOW THE MEETING WAS SORT OF AT AN IMPASSE, THE WAY SIEGENTHALER DESCRIBES IT, UNTIL YOU SPOKE UP. WHAT MADE YOU SPEAK UP AT THAT MEETING AND SAY THAT YOU COULD DEFEND THESE PEOPLE?
Well, because I felt like that the Attorney General expected me to do that, because I'd had several discussions with him and I also knew that the Governor expected me to do that.
I THINK YOU'D BETTER HAVE HIM RESTATE THAT AND INSTEAD OF SAYING "IT" SAY THE GOVERNOR EXPECTED ME TO [overlap] TO ENSURE …
OK, JUST SPELL IT OUT A LITTLE BIT MORE.
OK, LET'S CUT JUST FOR A SECOND UM, WHAT WE …
NINETEEN. THIS IS NINETEEN.
JUST REAL SPECIFICS, OK.
Well, in the meeting with Mr. John Siegenthaler and Governor Patterson, when things seemed to get to an impasse, I knew from my conversations with the Attorney General Kennedy, and also Mr. Siegenthaler, what they wanted. I also had known Governor Patterson much longer than either one of those people had known him and I felt that I knew also that he wanted me to enforce the law. So that's why I spoke up.
OK THAT'S GREAT. NOW WHAT ABOUT GOVERNOR PATTERSON'S SEGREGATIONIST POSITION IN THIS CAMPAIGN AS GOVERNOR HE WAS VERY RACIALLY UH, MOTIVATED IN THE WAY HE CONDUCTED THAT CAMPAIGN. DID YOU THINK THAT HE COULD HAVE GIVEN MORE OF A LEAD IN THE SITUATION, UH HAD HE BEEN WILLING TO RISK POLTICALLY, MAYBE HIS POLITICAL CAREER. OR DO YOU THINK, WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT THAT WHOLE GOVERNOR PATTERSON'S POSITION?
Well, of course uh, I don't think anyone could speak for what uh, his position at that time because after all he was the Governor and he knew the commitments he'd made and, uh, also in his own mind he probably felt he had a better feel politically about what the people who had elected him, how they felt than anyone else. Uh, so far as uh what he could have done, uh, what position he could have taken, I don't think I should second guess him at this point.
OK LET'S CUT THERE, I THINK WE'VE GOT EVERYTHING ELSE, DO YOU HAVE ANYTHING?
OK, IT'S ALL YOURS.
Well, uh, you know it's hard now to know what those people in the mob felt they had to fear from the freedom riders, but first, I think what upset, why they was acting the way they were acting because in their own minds there'd been a lot of press and a lot of publicity about these people coming to Alabama. They'd also been a lot made of them not being Alabamians and being outsiders and been a lot said about them being agitators and the things that uh, they were testing, you have to remember this was uh, 1961, and uh, never had any of those things happened in Alabama, like uh sharing the same restrooms in public places or sharing the same restaurant. To, to those people this was something totally new socially uh, and I'm sure that they were fearful of change and something new that they didn't understand. And some of them did not understand.
DO YOU THINK THAT THE UH, THEY COULD HAVE GIVEN IT… THE LEADERSHIP IN THE STATE COULD HAVE GIVEN THEM A BETTER LEAD ON HELPING THEM THROUGH THAT TRANSITION?
Uh, well, now, we, uh you know that I believe that leadership at that point in time, if they had uh just uh conducted themselves the way they would conduct themselves in 1986, it'd have been a totally different thing.
BUT, BUT BACK THEN I MEAN, STAYING IN 1961, DO YOU THINK THAT… DO YOU THINK THAT THINGS COULD HAVE, WOULD HAVE TURNED OUT DIFFERENTLY HAD THE LEADERSHIP IN ALABAMA GIVEN, SHOWN PEOPLE THAT IT WASN'T GOING TO BE SUCH A TERRIBLE THING?
CAN YOU JUST EXPLAIN THAT YOURSELF?
Yeah, I think certainly, if leaders in Alabama and all places of leadership had a give the kind of leadership that rightfully should have been given, there's no question in my mind that uh, turmoil would not have been as great, and the problem would have been solved much sooner.
OK LET'S CUT. THAT'S FINE.