Rand Jimerson

Rand Jimerson

Randall Jimerson is Professor of History & Director, Archives and Records Management MA Program at Western Washington University in Bellingham, Washington. He spent his early teen years in Birmingham, Alabama, where his father, Rev. Norman C. “Jim” Jimerson, worked as executive director of the Alabama Council on Human Relations. In September 1963, reeling from news of the bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, Jim Jimerson knelt in the street to pick up shards of the stained glass windows that the blast had scattered. Randall and his siblings grew up with a remnant of the windows as a physical reminder of those years. For more on the family’s experience see a September 7, 2013 Washington Post article by Lonnae O’Neal Parker, Piece of 16th Street Baptist Church being donated to Smithsonian.  In March 2014, LSU Press published Randall’s memoir Shattered Glass in Birmingham: My Family’s Fight for Civil Rights, 1961-1964. For book information, click here. In his book’s prologue he writes, “I have been thinking about these events for nearly fifty years. It is now time to speak.”

September 15, 1963

On Sunday morning, September 15, we attended the early morning service at Shades Valley Presbyterian Church. Dad sat with the four children while Mom sang in the choir, in the balcony behind us. After Sunday school, Dad drove us home, squeezed into the VW beetle. Mom had to stay with the choir for the second service at eleven o’clock, so Dad would prepare lunch for everyone. We changed into comfortable play clothes as soon as we got home.

Before he started the charcoal grill on the back patio, below the kitchen and dining room windows, Dad turned on the radio.

Gaston Motel

On Thursday night Dad asked if I wanted to drive into the city with him. He had to drop off something. The VW chugged to the crest of Red Mountain, with the lights of Birmingham spread across the valley below. Down into the city and into the black neighborhood, where I had seldom ventured. We parked in front of the Gaston Motel, where Dr. King and Reverend Shuttlesworth used a second floor office room as campaign headquarters. It was already past my usual ten o’clock bedtime, but crowds of people – mostly black, but a few whites – jammed the small lobby.