At 1 p.m. 50 years ago today I was in my 8th grade gym class when we heard the radio report over the PA system announcing the President’s death. The South had begun to turn against JFK due to his speeches advocating civil rights. Coach Little, a proud former Marine, stood in front of our class and announced that if he heard anyone laugh or giggle or saw anyone smile, he would ”take them down.” He was an intimidating figure and we knew he meant what he said. We stood at attention for about 30 minutes before we were told to get dressed and school was dismissed early. We went home wondering what the future held for us. As John Lee Hooker observed, it was a mighty time.
50 years ago today I was a sophomore at Phillips High School in Birmingham and in class when we were told President Kennedy had been shot and later died. I went numb with shock and fear. Our leader was gone. What would happen next? What I remember most vividly was how sickened I was that some of my classmates actually cheered. I had been inspired by his call to public service but others hated him for what was going on in Birmingham regarding desegregation. An ugliness I would have to deal with most of my life growing up in Birmingham was revealed as its most evil self in those cheers.
My family lived in Avondale, Alabama, until we moved to a farm on Lower Rocky Ridge (south Jefferson County) in about 1960. Our mailing address was Route 13, Birmingham, and I always considered myself as being born and raised here. I was just a little girl and was pretty sheltered from anything that was going on in 1963, but I do remember a few things. We had a maid who worked one day a week for my Mama. Her name was Lillie, and I have two distinct memories regarding her. (more…)
In June of 1963, my parents moved our family to Birmingham. I thought this was horrible because I would not graduate with my friends in Huntsville.
In September, I started my senior year at Ramsay and we had a different student in our class. Richard Walker was the only black student at Ramsay. (more…)
I was 13 years old in 1963, and a student at Homewood Junior High. I do remember the Sunday the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church was bombed. Innocent children were killed in God’s house, in a terrorist act.
Before this, I was going along with the crowd. My father told my mother, my sister and me not to go downtown that summer. Every nut in the United States was congregating down there. (more…)