Interview with Rufus Lewis
Interview with Rufus Lewis


Production Team: A

Interview Date: October 31, 1985
Interview Place: Montgomery, Alabama
Camera Rolls: 123-127
Sound Rolls: 1110-1111

Interview gathered as part of Eyes on the Prize: America's Civil Rights Years (1954-1965).
Produced by Blackside, Inc.
Housed at the Washington University Film and Media Archive, Henry Hampton Collection.
Editorial Notes:

Preferred citation:
Interview with Rufus Lewis, conducted by Blackside, Inc. on October 31, 1985, 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.

INTERVIEW
FILM PRODUCTION TEAM:

Sound Roll 1110-1111 Camera Roll 123-127

CAMERA CREW MEMBER:

31 OCTOBER SOUND ROLL 1110 CAMERA ROLL 123 INTERVIEW, MONTGOMERY, ALABAMA WITH MR. RUFUS LEWIS.

QUESTION 1
INTERVIEWER:

FIRST OF ALL, CAN YOU DESCRIBE FOR ME WHAT MONTGOMERY WAS LIKE AT THE TIME BEFORE THE BUS BOYCOTT?

Rufus Lewis:

Before the bus boycott?

QUESTION 2
INTERVIEWER:

ESPECIALLY IN TERMS OF RACE RELATIONS. AROUND 1955, WHAT WAS THE TOWN LIKE?

Rufus Lewis:

What Montgomery was like before the bus boycott, was like—that's enough?

QUESTION 3
INTERVIEWER:

I'LL REPEAT THAT QUESTION. A LOT OF OUR VIEWERS AREN'T GOING TO HAVE ANY IDEA OF WHAT THE SOUTH WAS LIKE AROUND 1955. CAN YOU DESCRIBE FOR ME WHAT MONTGOMERY WAS LIKE AROUND '55, ESPECIALLY IN TERMS OF RACE RELATIONS AND SEGREGATION?

Rufus Lewis:

What Montgomery was like around 1955. Montgomery from then on back had been a highly segregated environment. Blacks lived in one neighborhood, whites lived in others. There was no mixture of black and whites in the various neighborhoods, except where whites have blacks living in their yard as servants. That was the kind of mixture that you would find. Now, other than that, there was a sharp distinction between the activities of the blacks living in their yard as servants. That was the kind of mixture that you would find. Now, other that that, there was a sharp distinction between the activities of the blacks and the activities of the whites. Blacks usually was the servants and did the labor. There was some few blacks did other things, such as insurance and business of that type, which did—dealt solely with blacks. As far as kids were concerned, there was no—very few associations of black and white kids. I remember when I was a boy, going from—off Gould Street over here to Swain School, Booker Washington School, many times white would wait for us, and throw us—throw rocks at us to run us out of the community. That happened frequently, but we got used to is, and even changed our way, that we got rocks and threw back at them. So that was—that was a kind of normal situation between black and white. They didn't work together except in areas where blacks and whites agreed on some things.

QUESTION 4
INTERVIEWER:

THAT LAST TAKE WAS JUST TOO MUCH CLOTHES NOISE ON THE MIKE. OK, WE'RE GOING TO START THAT ONE OVER AGAIN. WHY WERE YOU SO WELL KNOWN IN MONTGOMERY? WHAT WERE THE, HOW WELL KNOWN WERE YOU, AND WHY WAS THAT?

Rufus Lewis:

How well known I was, and why, I guess it was because I was born here in Montgomery, right across town. I was an athlete in high school, and in college, so playing football and baseball, especially if you playing colleges and schools from other sections, you become fairly well know, because athletics was very popular for us then. And I guess that was the beginning. Later on I became interested in political activities, and for some reason I started working with voter registration, and I thought that was the finest thing I could have done, and I still believe that's the finest thing I've ever done, to help people get registered. And I did that as, as broadly as I possibly could and that was the other thing that caused me to be known in Montgomery. Then following that, I coached football, and where people come to see Tuskegee and Alabama play, they going to know the coach, you know, and that was the other thing that caused me to be known in this area. I think those are some of the things.

QUESTION 5
INTERVIEWER:

LET'S TALK A LITTLE BIT MORE ABOUT THE VOTER REGISTRATION. YOU WERE VERY ACTIVE IN THE COMMUNITY. CAN YOU TELL ME ABOUT THE KINDS OF THINGS YOU DID TO GET PEOPLE REGISTERED, AND HOW THAT WORKED?

Rufus Lewis:

Well, yes, in getting—in encouraging people to get registered, you first have to get the registration blanks. We had, we got a mimeograph machine, had a little committee of us. We got a mimeograph machine, and we would get copies of the questions that the county would ask people to answer for registration. We had a large number of those printed, and we would take them in the community and let the people study them, and we'd go over it with them, so when they come to answer the questions, they would know how to do it. And this is, this is, this was our method of registration. And we had a projector, showing blacks especially, getting registered in certain areas. I think we got that, that film from the Labor Department. And we showed this in the various counties of the district. And this encouraged, and inspired the people to become registered. They see other blacks getting registered, and they were having fun doing it, and they want to emulate them. So that was some of the methods.

QUESTION 6
INTERVIEWER:

DID YOU ALSO HAVE A CLUB HERE THAT WAS A PART OF THAT WHOLE …

Rufus Lewis:

Well, we had what was known as a citizens' club, and it was, well, we did everything the other clubs did, but in addition to that, we said, you had to be a registered voter to be a member of the citizens' club. Well, we had dances, we served drinks, and this, that and the other. But we didn't let people come in who were not members. If you wanted to become a member, and it was a popular club, you would have to get registered. And that was a little scheme in which we used to get a number of people registered.

QUESTION 7
INTERVIEWER:

THE RUSTLING OF THE NOISE THAT YOU'RE HEARING IS FROM CLOTHES RUBBING AGAINST THE CHAIR, SO WHAT WE'RE GOING TO DO IS TRY TO RESOLVE IT BY PUTTING ON SOME CLOTH, SO IT DOESN'T INTERFERE. YOU WERE JUST TELLING ME ABOUT DR. KING COMING TO THE CITIZENS' CLUB TO ENCOURAGE PEOPLE TO REGISTER. CAN YOU TELL US HOW THAT HAPPENED?

Rufus Lewis:

Well, well, I was a member of the church, Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, of which Dr. King was the pastor, and I had worked in the church getting folks registered. In fact, I worked everywhere, going to houses, individual homes, getting registered, going to clubs, and running a club myself …

QUESTION 8
INTERVIEWER:

THERE'S AN AMBULANCE GOING BY AND THIS IS A NEW MIC. THIS IS 415, AND THIS IS CAMERA ROLL 124. CAN YOU TELL US AGAIN ABOUT THE CITIZENS' CLUB AND HOW DR. KING CAME DOWN TO TALK THERE?

Rufus Lewis:

Well, I was operating—I owned the citizens' club. It was organized with the effort in mind of getting people registered. We served drinks and we had dances, we had parties. We had a nice patio. And in, in, in getting people registered, we invite different clubs to come in, and we would have registration forms for them to fill out. We'd show them how to fill them out, and, and, and show them, and sometime[s] we would take them to the courthouse to get registered if they come in groups. So this was some of the things we did at the citizens' club. Now, Reverend King came into the citizens' club to talk to various groups, not only about registration, about other things, family problems, and he was very helpful in helping the citizens in that area with his conferences. But he had regular conferences in the room we called the—I can't recall now what we called the room, but it was a room which was set aside for him to have conferences with the citizens.

QUESTION 9
INTERVIEWER:

WAS THIS A SURPRISE, TO SEE A REVEREND FROM DEXTER AVENUE CHURCH COME DOWN?

Rufus Lewis:

Yes, it was a surprise to some people, but it was an excellent thing to others to know what he was doing. Now, he didn't participate in the drinks, of that sort, at all, but he did make good, close contact with the people who came in there, and especially those special groups, who, who came in there to hear what he had to say.

QUESTION 10
INTERVIEWER:

WHAT KINDS OF REASONS DID THE REGISTRARS GIVE TURNING BLACK AWAY WHEN THEY CAME TO VOTE?

Rufus Lewis:

The most effective reason they would have is that, if you miss any single question, any unimportant answer, you were turned down. And that was the reason we had to get the registration forms, and get mimeograph machines, to mimeograph a large number of them, so that our people wouldn't miss a single question. Now, some of the questions was not important at all. But if you missed a question, you were denied. And that was the reason that we went into this getting as prepared as we possibly could, to, to answer the questions, and we did a fairly good job, because we studied them as thoroughly as we could. The people who went down then to register, they knew the questions, cause they studied them carefully. And many times I would take them down there and wait for them and bring them back. Now, if they didn't get registered, then we would send a complaint to the Governor.

QUESTION 11
INTERVIEWER:

WAS THAT EFFECTIVE?

Rufus Lewis:

I think so, because we got registered.

QUESTION 12
INTERVIEWER:

WORKING WITH VOTER REGISTRATION MUST HAVE GIVEN YOU A REALLY CLEAR SENSE OF THE KIND OF BLACK COMMUNITY MONTGOMERY WAS AND THE DIFFERENCES IN THE BLACK COMMUNITY. CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THAT FOR A MOMENT?

Rufus Lewis:

yes, I think I can. It was not only getting people registered here in Montgomery County. I went to the thirteen counties in the Second Congressional District to get people registered. And that, that took quite a, quite a job. But it was a joy to me, because I could do it and sometime I wouldn't. But I had the means by which to go these various counties, and we set up meetings in the churches, or wherever we could set up meetings, and the people would be there when I got there. I would come, with a stack of registration forms, pass them out, go over the questions with them, and see to it that they answered all the questions correctly. Then we would make some plans to go to the courthouse to get registered. And in, in instances I would take some of them to the courthouse. That was the procedure that was used throughout the Second Congressional District. Now, I guess that accounts for my being known throughout the area and throughout the District.

QUESTION 13
INTERVIEWER:

BUT HERE SPECIFICALLY IN THE TOWN, IT MUST HAVE BEEN SOMETIMES DIFFICULT TO COORDINATE BECAUSE THERE ARE SO MANY DIFFERENT GROUPS.

Rufus Lewis:

Well, I don't think it was a difficult task. If such-and-such a church would permit us to have a registration meeting in that church, we would ask all the people who wanted to get registered meet at a certain time. We would go there, with the registration forms, and pencils, and pass those applications out, take one and go over it with the group, being sure that they didn't miss a single question, and therefore, let them fill it out there, let them study it and set a time, when they would go to the courthouse for registration. Now we do this church one Sunday, or whatever, one night, and go to another church, another who want to get registered. Now we – when or two people get registered, that's going to inspire some of the others. And we have less difficulty in getting them together, ‘cause it becomes a kind of a little game, then, and they like it.

QUESTION 14
INTERVIEWER:

YOU KNEW ROSA PARKS BEFORE THE BOYCOTT. CAN YOU TALK ABOUT—CAN YOU DESCRIBE HER FOR US? WHAT WAS SHE LIKE?

Rufus Lewis:

Miss Parks was kind of a quiet woman, apparently a quiet woman. But she had a motive—a motivation in her that you didn't see right off. And it takes, it takes some pushing to get her motivated, but her appearance, and what was within her was different things. She looked like a very quiet and peaceful woman. And she acted like that in most instances. But there were some things that disturbed her greatly, and I think this, this matter of riding the bus, just went right to her heart, so to speak. And then she's not a quiet woman, she's an outspoken person.

QUESTION 15
INTERVIEWER:

THAT'S REAL GOOD. THAT'S A REAL GOOD ANSWER. WE'RE INTO ABOUT A HUNDRED FEET AT THIS POINT. IT'S 100 FEET REMAINING IN THIS CAMERA ROLL. CAN YOU DESCRIBE FOR US THE SEGREGATED BUS SYSTEM THAT UPSET ROSA PARKS AND OTHER BLACKS? WHAT WAS THAT LIKE?

Rufus Lewis:

Yes, I think I can describe the bus system that upset Mrs. Parks. Because I've been here all my life. And the segregated bus system operated that, when blacks want to get on the bus, they would enter a kind of a back, a side door, getting in. And they would sit from the back, about half-way, or as much as they could, near half-way, or as much as they could, near half-way, from the back to the front. Whites get on, they get on the front of the bus, they would sit from the front to mid-way the back, or as much as they need, much seating as they needed. So, that was the situation that existed and had been existing for years. The blacks get on in the back and the whites get on in the front. The blacks sit down from the back up, and the whites sit down from the front back. Now, that was not the law, except, that was what they insisted that you must do. And I think was a – an undesirable thing for some people, because they figured if they paid their fare, they ought to be able to sit anywhere they want to. And I think this was the feeling of Mrs. Parks when she got on the bus. She didn't got to the back. She got on at the front. And she went through the front in a certain area, and sit down in the front area, front section. And the bus driver ordered her up. And this is when she refused to get up. Because she figured she paid her fare, then she had a right to sit anywhere she want. That is the way I see the bus situa—-situation during that time.

QUESTION 16
INTERVIEWER:

THAT WAS A CAMERA ROLL-OUT. WE'RE GOING TO ROLL 125. CAMERA ROLL 125. NOW, CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT MARTIN LUTHER KING IN 1955 AND WHAT KIND OF MAN HE WAS, AND HOW YOU CAME TO NOMINATE HIM AS HEAD OF MIA.

Rufus Lewis:

What kind of man Martin Luther King was and how I become to nominate for the chairmanship of the MIA. Well, Martin Luther King was a young man. I was quite a bit older than Martin Luther King when he was a pastor, when he became a pastor of Dexter Avenue Baptist Church. But Martin Luther King was a forthright man, he—you could, you could feel what he said, as well as hearing what he said. He, he looked like he talked from the heart, and he was sincere about his, his, his sermons, or whatever he was talking about. He was a good man. He was a smart man. He was highly educated, and in that from that background, he was more effective in influencing people than, than anybody we had in the group at that time, and especially for the MIA. Because, here, you need to have somebody who can influence the public, who can influence small groups. And Martin Luther King just was ideal for that sort of thing. That's why I nominated him. That was some others who wanted to be chairman, but they did not have the ability. They didn't—they had the desire, but that was all. But Martin Luther King, as quietly as he was, he had all that was necessary, it seemed to me, to be the chairman. And for that reason, I nominated him first, because I didn't want the whole thing to be cluttered up, with so many others, who didn't have the, the background, and the experience, or the knowledge, in dealing with people.

QUESTION 17
INTERVIEWER:

WHY WAS KING ACCEPTABLE, ONCE HE WAS NOMINATED?

Rufus Lewis:

I couldn't answer that for others, but I believe people just knew him, and, and his expression convinced him that he could do the job more effectively than anybody else, it seemed —anybody else in our group, it seemed. And there was no question about opposition, after he was nominated.

QUESTION 18
INTERVIEWER:

WAS IT IMPORTANT THAT HE WAS NOT CLOSELY ASSOCIATED WITH OTHER GROUPS, THAT HE WAS NEW TO THE COMMUNITY? WAS THAT IMPORTANT?

Rufus Lewis:

That, that was important. Because it wouldn't be out of this group or out of that group, and that group, or this group would figure they had an advantage over the others. But he was a neutral man, a good man. And a man that could do the job, and a man that was not on this side or that side. I think that was the reason.

QUESTION 19
INTERVIEWER:

WHAT ARE THE QUALITIES THAT KING HAD THAT ENABLED HIM TO INSPIRE BOTH EDUCATED BLACKS, AND EVEN UNEDUCATED BLACKS, TO REACH ALL THE DIFFERENT KINDS OF PEOPLE IN MONTGOMERY?

Rufus Lewis:

Ask that question again, I didn't …

QUESTION 20
INTERVIEWER:

HOW WAS IT THAT KING WAS ABLE TO REACH ALL THE DIFFERENT KINDS OF PEOPLE, BLACK PEOPLE, BLACK PEOPLE IN MONTGOMERY, EVEN THE EDUCATED PEOPLE, AND THE UNEDUCATED PEOPLE? WAS THERE SOME SPECIAL TALENT HE HAD?

Rufus Lewis:

Yes, I think it was a special talent he had. He could talk to people. People believed him. He was honest. He was sincere. He could talk their language. But he could talk the language of any other group. And he was convincing in his conversation. It wasn't a make-believe. He was sincere, and you could feel it. And you could, you could go with King, any—wherever he went.

QUESTION 21
INTERVIEWER:

THERE'S 200 FEET OF FILM LEFT. TELL US ABOUT KING'S SPEAKING ABILITY, AND IF YOU CAN DESCRIBE WHAT THAT WAS LIKE.

Rufus Lewis:

It's, it's very hard for an ordinary person to describe Reverend King's speaking ability, because he was such an outstanding man. He could, he could, he could make you feel what he was saying. He was sincere, and dedicated. And he could lift you out of the seat. You couldn't, you couldn't, you couldn't just be quiet, look like, it was such a stirring thing, that it would affect you. It would just go right through you. So I can't, I can't say much more than that, because it's such a stimulating thing. And he was carried away, look like, with his own speech.** He, he couldn't be quiet. He had to speak. It was something in him, that had to come out and had to be known by the people, and he would tell them in such an effective way. To, to, to describe Reverend King's speaking ability, you'd have to be Reverend King. I can't do that.

QUESTION 22
INTERVIEWER:

CAN YOU TALK A LITTLE BIT ABOUT THE KIND OF JEALOUSY THAT SOME PEOPLE FELT ABOUT KING?

Rufus Lewis:

To talk about the jealousy felt about King is a difficult thing to do. Because King was highly enlightened, had superb ability with the English language, and there was not many ministers in our areas who could come up to that height, and I'm sure that there was some, who were jealous from that point of view, and some that were fairly close to him, wanted to have this sort of position in the community, but did not have what it took. And therefore, it is easy to see how they would be a little jealous, because here is the man, coming out of another city, or town, or state, coming into Montgomery, and taking the leadership, and inspiring and moving people into action, where they have been here for years, and have not had that opportunity, or had that ability to do this sort of a thing. So that is the kind of thing you can imagine, the jealousy came from. But whatever it was, King had what it took to move Montgomery and the nation, I believe.

QUESTION 23
INTERVIEWER:

CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT THE TRANSPORTATION COMMITTEE, AND HOW THAT WORKED?

Rufus Lewis:

Well, I can probably tell you more about the transportation committee and working of it, because I was the chairman because I had access to cars at the funeral home, when, when we needed cars, I could get a car right then, and go and do what was necessary. But to organize the transportation was a much bigger job, because we had to get cars for the entire community some time, and cars that would be sent to certain areas for the entire community. Therefore, we asked for persons who had cars, and would voluntarily put them in the transportation pool, to let us know, and what time they could be used. And in that way, we could know when we will have cars, and where they had to go to pick up people. So the, the people who had work—who worked in the various outlying areas of the city, would register their place of regis—-of working, and the time they'll get off, and where they would be, for cars to pick them up. And this is the type of arrangement we had the committee working on, to be able to pick up the people, when they get off of work. Now, we had several people in one area to be picked up, a couple of cars would do that. Several people in another area, couple of cars would do that, and at certain times. This is general idea, and the way the transportation committee was set up. And those folks who had cars would register the time that they would be usable, and from that, we could serve the people.**

QUESTION 24
INTERVIEWER:

YOU WERE SAYING EARLIER THAT THERE WAS A TRANSPORTATION CENTER IN MONTGOMERY.

Rufus Lewis:

Yes, that was downtown on Monroe Street, right in back of the Theatre. There was a lot, a park . . .**

QUESTION 25
INTERVIEWER:

THIS IS GOING TO BE ROOM TONE. I'M GOING TO LET IT ROLL OUT.

CAMERA CREW MEMBER:

OK, THIS IS SOUND ROLL 1111. CAMERA ROLL, BRAND NEW, 126. 31 OCTOBER 1985. INTERVIEW WITH MR. RUFUS LEWIS, MONTGOMERY ALABAMA.

QUESTION 26
INTERVIEWER:

I'M GOING TO ASK YOU AGAIN IF YOU CAN TELL US ABOUT THE DISPATCH CENTER, AND YOU WERE ABOUT TO TELL ME ABOUT HOW THAT WORKED.

Rufus Lewis:

Well, the transportation center was a place, a vacant lot, downtown, rather the parking lot downtown that we were able to use. The cars that came from the various sections of the county, I mean, the city, or the county, they would bring all the people in that area, and there would make the transfer. Some people coming from North Alabama had to go to East Alabama. And we'd bring them all in, and get them re-classified, as far as the directions in which they were going, and send them on home. That was our, our main headquarters down in the heart of Montgomery.**

QUESTION 27
INTERVIEWER:

WERE THERE DISPATCHERS WHO TOOK CALLS FROM PEOPLE?

Rufus Lewis:

Yes, yes. We—this is, this is the way we would know that the people had to be picked up, and where they were.** When we bring them to the center, then all of those people who lived in North Montgomery, would get into a car and carried to their place in North Montgomery. So that was the way of operating.

QUESTION 28
INTERVIEWER:

DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEA HOW MANY PEOPLE YOU WERE MOVING? OR HOW MANY CARS YOU HAD?

Rufus Lewis:

It's hard for me to try to guess now. An idea—we had, I suppose around twenty-five or thirty cars or more. It's hard to know, because, it my car could be used today at such and such a time, another, and my car may not be able to be used tomorrow at that time, don't you see? In the cars that come in, who volunteer, or put their cars in for service, wouldn't do it, some of them couldn't do it day by day. But they could do it as their conditions permitted time. Therefore, we couldn't say exactly how many cars, because it varies as to the number of cars within the car pool. We had a considerable number, however.

QUESTION 29
INTERVIEWER:

LET'S TALK A MOMENT ABOUT THE CITY OF MONTGOMERY AND THE MAYOR AND POLITICIANS. WHY DO YOU THINK IT WAS THAT THE CITY AND MAYOR WERE SO SLOW IN BEGINNING TO NEGOTIATE SERIOUSLY WITH THE MONTGOMERY IMPROVEMENT ASSOCIATION?

Rufus Lewis:

Well, well, why the officials in Montgomery were slow to deal with the movement, I think, they did not want to deal with Reverend King. He was just too, too much for them. They didn't want to do what they knew was right. They wanted to do what they had always been doing. And King was so forceful against that. They just couldn't deal with him. He was for right.

QUESTION 30
INTERVIEWER:

WHY WAS IT THAT THE CITY AND THE MAYOR WERE SO SLOW IN BEGINNING TO NEGOTIATE WITH THE MONTGOMERY IMPROVEMENT ASSOCIATION?

Rufus Lewis:

Well, the reason I believe that the city was slow, Reverend King was such a forceful influence for right. He was such a forceful influence for doing away with the, with the segregation system in the city, until they didn't want to deal with him. He was just too straightforward for them. I think that was the main reason. He was too intelligent, he was too courageous, he was always willing to make whatever commitment he had to make for right.

QUESTION 31
INTERVIEWER:

DO YOU THINK THAT THE CITY OFFICIALS WERE SURPRISED BY THE KIND OF SUPPORT THAT HE HAD FROM THE BLACK COMMUNITY?

Rufus Lewis:

I'm sure they were. I'm sure they were. Because they couldn't see how the whole Negro group, so to speak, would rally around a man as young as Reverend King. But Reverend King was a different man. He had what was necessary grab people, and he had the spirit to do it, and the knowledge and the intelligence to do it.

QUESTION 32
INTERVIEWER:

WERE YOU EVER DISCOURAGED? THIS WAS A LONG, LONG BOYCOTT, OVER A YEAR. DID YOU EVER GET DISCOURAGED DURING THAT TIME?

Rufus Lewis:

I don't know whether you'd even think about being discouraged. If you hear Reverend King talk, if you get into the conversation, or into the meetings, or into the services, you're inspired. You're not, you're not discouraged. The job may be extremely difficult, but you are inspired to do it, irrespective of the difficulty. He was, he was a character that stimulated and moved people. You can see that—he has moved the country.

QUESTION 33
INTERVIEWER:

WHEN KING'S HOSUE WAS BOMBED …

CAMERA CREW MEMBER:

150 FEET REMAINING IN THE CAMERA. STILL CAMERA ROLL 126.

QUESTION 34
INTERVIEWER:

WHEN KING'S HOUSE WAS BOMBED, YOU SAID HE DIDN'T LIVE TOO FAR FROM YOU, HOW WAS THAT – HOW DID THAT EFFECT THE PEOPLE IN THE BOYCOTT – THE BLACK PEOPLE WHO WERE SUPPORTING HIM.

Rufus Lewis:

When King's house was bombed, it – it affected the whole black community, because they – they – they acted as though their house was bombed, and crowds of people gathered right down the street here, where he lived, soon as they heard it, it was a mass of people in the streets. That's the way they responded to him. Now, King had to come out to tell them, that his wife and children were safe, and they could go home. But they didn't respond to that, they – they wanted to do something to – to make amends, for for someone bombing his house or, bomb somebody else's house, because his was bombed. That was the way they felt. But he quieted them down, and told them that nobody was hurt. His children were well, his wife was not hurt, he was not hurt, and later on, during the night, they gradually went back home.

QUESTION 35
INTERVIEWER:

WERE PEOPLE DISCOURAGED WHEN THEY HAPPENED? DID THEY WANT TO QUIT AFTER THE HOUSE WAS BOMBED?

Rufus Lewis:

No, no, no. They wanted to get revenge, but King had to get that out of their system.

QUESTION 36
INTERVIEWER:

DO YOU THINK THAT IT MADE PEOPLE EVEN MORE STRONGER?

Rufus Lewis:

It made them cling to King, more tenaciously.

QUESTION 37
INTERVIEWER:

FINALLY, I HAVE ONE LAST QUESTION. HOW DID YOU FEEL WHEN THE BOYCOTT WAS OVER, AND YOU GOT BACK ONTO THE BUSES WITH MARTIN LUTHER KING AND ABERNATHY AND OTHERS?

Rufus Lewis:

You feel like you have accomplished something, you know. I remember you see, the bus go right down the street there. Going right to the college. And the – when the bus boycott was over, the people just, the blacks got on the bus to sit on the front seat just to, just to, just to show off. And they had a lot of fun, sitting on the front seat, riding, riding to the college, or riding away from the college. Nobody sat in the black then, cause ‘all of them sat on the front. It was a, it was a jubilation. It was a joy.**

QUESTION 38
INTERVIEWER:

IF YOU COULD JUST TELL US, WHAT WERE BLACK PEOPLE LIKE IN MONTGOMERY?

Rufus Lewis:

How can black people be any different from black people in other places? Look at my black and your black. We about the same black. Now, what's going to make me so much different from you? The only thing I can see, is the type of pressure being put on me, that may not be put on you, that would make me respond in a more vigorous way. But now, all blacks are segre – subjected to a certain sort of a way of life. I wouldn't say all, but very near all. Now, I, I, Montgomery is the heart of Alabama. Alabama's a southern town. Segregated, been segregated as long as I can remember, and much longer. Now, what it is in Chicago, I don't know, but you can, you can tell me that there's pretty near the same sort of situation.

CAMERA CREW MEMBER:

THAT WAS A CAMERA ROLL OUT. THAT WAS ROLL 126. WE'RE GOING TO ROLL 127 NOW.

QUESTION 39
INTERVIEWER:

YOU WERE SAYING THAT ALL BLACK PEOPLE WERE PRETTY MUCH THE SAME, BUT WHY, IF THAT'S SO, WHY DID THIS HAPPEN IN MONTGOMERY? WHY MONTGOMERY AND NO OTHER PLACE?

Rufus Lewis:

We had a type of leadership that inspired people to strive for what was due them, and what was right. And that leadership was more forceful and more penetrating than the, than what you could find in some of the other places. I think that was the cause of Montgomery being a little different, in reacting to the situation than some of the other places. That's what I think. I think Dr. King was different, because he had something in him that – that made him different. He, he had to almost save the blacks in the community from, from being misused, so to speak. He was just a different man. He was highly intelligent, as religious and straightforward as any man I've ever known, and he could inspire people to do many things they thought they would not do. This is the difference, I think, in Reverend King.

QUESTION 40
INTERVIEWER:

JUST ANSWER ONE MORE QUESTION. WE ASKED YOU THIS BEFORE, WAS HE AN AMBITIOUS MAN?

Rufus Lewis:

Was what?

QUESTION 41
INTERVIEWER:

WAS DR. KING AN AMBITIOUS MAN?

Rufus Lewis:

Ambitious—not, he was ambitious, but not in acquiring wealth. He was ambitious to inspire and to lead, and to open the way for people. He was ambitious for people's development. He was ambitious for knowledge of, of people in situations where they needed change. This was the kind of ambition that he had. He wasn't after wealth at all. He was after the soul of man. And he – he could change whites, just as he could blacks, if they would listen to him. And this is the thing that disturbed the whites. Because they knew he was making changes, and they didn't want changes. That was his ambition.

QUESTION 42
INTERVIEWER:

DR. KING CHANGED MANY WHITES IN MONTGOMERY? CHANGED THEM AROUND?

Rufus Lewis:

Yes, I think Dr. King changed many whites. But there were also changes in both sides, those who want to keep the situation as it were, they were radical, they went the other way, don't you see? He was too much of a force. You had to go with him, or you had to go against him. There were some, who went with him.

CAMERA CREW MEMBER:

THAT'S A WRAP ON MR. RUFUS LEWIS, MONTGOMERY, ALABAMA. ROOM TONE WAS ALREADY TAKEN ON SOUND ROLL 1110. THIS IS A WRAP FOR MR. LEWIS.