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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Arthur Shores, July 17, 1974. Interview A-0021. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Birmingham violence actually helps civil rights movement

Shores gives George Wallace part of the blame for stimulating a violent response to civil rights protest in Alabama. That violence, however, helped the cause of the protesters a great deal. Furthermore, Birmingham itself was forced to change because its violent reputation was driving out businesses

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Arthur Shores, July 17, 1974. Interview A-0021. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

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As you say, the image that Wallace has portrayed. . . . I think he'd have a hard time being sold to blacks nationally. Although as I say what he has done has been the result of political expedience. When he stood in the school house door, they said. . . . But last year he crowned a black queen down at the University of Alabama.
JACK BASS:
How about the action at the Selma bridge and sending troopers to Tuskegee?
ARTHUR SHORES:
Well, as I say, he was doing what he promised to do. Maintain the status quo of segregation.
JACK BASS:
The violence here in 1963. Do you attribute that to a climate created by Wallace?
ARTHUR SHORES:
By Wallace and by Bull Connor over here in Birmingham and by the sheriff down there in Dallas county. That's where the heat of the thing was. I think it was attributed to the three of them. But it was the greatest boon that happened to the civil rights issue. To have had shown on television what was happening. Like the dogs and the hose pipes here. This pricked the conscience of the people all over this country so we had no trouble getting a rather stiff civil rights law, legislation. And then at the march from Selma toward Montgomery, when they were met with these electric cattle prods there on the bridge. And we got through right easily the voter rights act. And of course that was really the greatest thing that has happened to blacks. In Alabama . . . I think Alabama is now third in the union among states with black elected officials. We've got four black sheriffs in Alabama. Something you don't have anywhere else in the country. And of course I believe Mississippi is first. I'm not sure that Arkansas is second and we're third now. At one time we were second . . . in the number of black elected officials. And that came as a result of the 1965 Voter Rights Act.
JACK BASS:
Do you think that's the irony of George Wallace?
ARTHUR SHORES:
Well, it might be considered that, but it was a great. . . . I mean he's considered . . . George Wallace and Bull Connor and Jim Clark were considered the greatest help that we have received in the whole civil rights thrust. They're the ones who brought it about. More quickly and completely than anything else that was done.
JACK BASS:
I think Sheriff Clark and Bull Connor both have retired a fairly long time ago.
ARTHUR SHORES:
Yes. Bull is deceased now.
JACK BASS:
Right. But he retired before he—
ARTHUR SHORES:
No, no. Right up to the time . . . almost up to his death he held public office.
JACK BASS:
Is that right? I didn't realize that.
ARTHUR SHORES:
Oh yeah, he was president of the public service commission. Bull was another one who was . . . I mean he was politically expedient. But it's amazing how Birmingham . . . as I say, it was one of the worst places in this country. How it changed. The power structure had a lot to do with it. I mean they realized that if this city were to move forward. . . . Industry wouldn't come it. It wouldn't come in to a place where there's chances of riots and civil strife. They began to realize that and the city worked to see that it did change. And I must say it's changed. Now every Monday some 45 to 60 black and white citizens meet for breakfast. Members of the power structure, that is. Presidents of the bank, big industries, professionals, labor leaders, educators and just rank and file plain people meet for breakfast every Monday morning.