This very rare book “The Jim Clark Story: I Saw Selma Raped” was written by Sheriff Jim Clark in 1966, one year after the infamous “Bloody Sunday” event where, as Sheriff of Selma, Alabama, he oversaw the beatings of men, women, and children who were engaged in a peaceful Voting Rights march.
I have never seen this book anywhere else. When I first acquired it through auction, I was contacted by buyers who missed the auction and were very serious about buying it from me at a substantial profit.
Paperback, 114 pages.
In 1964 and 1965, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee engaged in a voters drive in Dallas County, of which Selma is the seat. Clark was sheriff of Selma, and vocally opposed to racial integration, wearing a button reading “Never” (integrate). Clark wore military style clothing, and carried a cattle prod in addition to his pistol and club.
In response to the voters drive, Clark recruited a horse mounted posse of Ku Klux Klan members and supporters. Together with the Highway Patrolmen of Albert J. Lingo, the posse was intended to “operate … as a mobile anti-civil rights force”, and appeared at several Alabama towns outside of Clark’s jurisdiction to assault and threaten civil rights workers.
In Selma, the SNCC campaign was met with violence and intimidation by Clark, who waited at the entrance to the county courthouse, beating and arresting registrants at the slightest provocation. At one point, Clark mass arrested around 300 students who were holding a silent protest outside the courthouse, force marching them with cattle prods to a detention centre three miles away. By 1965, only 300 of the city’s 15,000 potential black voters were registered.
At one SCLC protest, he arrested Amelia Boynton, who was well-respected in the community. Pictures of the arrest, during which the club-wielding Clark pushed Boynton to the ground, ran in the New York Times and the Washington Post. Ralph Abernathy of the SCLC mockingly nominated Clark for honorary membership in the Dallas County Voters’ League “for publicity services rendered.” When Clark heard this on a surveillance tape made of the meeting, “[h]e’d scream bloody murder that he’d never do it again, he wouldn’t fall into that trap again and go out the next day and do the same thing,” said Wilson Baker, director of public safety.
On March 7, 1965, around 600 protesters left Selma. Jim Clark’s officers and posse joined with Alabama state troopers in attacking the protesters on the Edmund Pettus Bridge on the outskirts of Selma in an event that came to be known as “Bloody Sunday”, resulting in the hospitalization of over 60 protesters.That evening, the American Broadcasting Company interrupted the television premiere of Judgment at Nuremberg to show scenes of the violence to around 48 million Americans.Clark manhandled activists such as Amelia Boynton Robinson, Rev. F.D. Reese and Rev. C.T. Vivian in front of news cameras, which gained the incident international coverage. This was a critical event in the United States Congress passing the Voting Rights Act.
In an obituary, the Washington Post noted:
Mr. Clark’s most visible moment came March 7, 1965, at the start of a peaceful voting rights march from Selma to the capital city of Montgomery.
Mr. Clark and his men were stationed near Selma’s Edmund Pettus Bridge. Alabama State Trooper John Cloud ordered the hundreds of marchers to disperse. When they did not, Mr. Clark commanded his mounted “posse” to charge into the crowd. Tear gas heightened the chaos, and protesters were beaten….
Captured on national television, the Bloody Sunday incident spurred widespread revulsion. Even Gov. George C. Wallace, who had earlier sparked a national showdown over a refusal to integrate public schools, reprimanded the state troopers and Mr. Clark.