As MLK Day was on Monday, I wanted to share something about this influential individual. There’s a lot written about Dr. King, but I thought I would share a story about a trial involving him. In 1956, King was indicted by the Montgomery County Grand Jury for his boycott of the Montgomery City Lines, Inc.
Dr. King was tried as a criminal defendant for violating an Alabama statute that outlawed boycotts against businesses when he boycotted the Montgomery City bus line. He was represented by legendary trial lawyer Fred Gray who presented evidence of the abuse blacks suffered from Montgomery bus drivers.
One woman testified her husband was killed by Montgomery police after a confrontation with a bus driver over a fare. They called 31 witnesses over the 4 day trial to try to prove the propriety of the boycott. The presented an impressive case.
But at the end of the trial, the judge found King guilty and fined him $500 and $500 in court costs. This doesn’t sound like a lot, but it’s $8,825 in today’s dollars. So he appealed – and lost. The court converted the fine to 386 days in jail – from a fine to jail time. King’s lawyer was amazing but was fighting entrenched white supremacy. Learn more about Fred Gray here.
King said: “I was optimistic enough to hope for the best but realistic enough to prepare for the worst. This will not mar or diminish in any way my interest in the protest. We will continue to protest in the same spirit of nonviolence and passive resistance, using the weapon of love.”
Another appeal failed – King missed the 60-day appeal deadline. King paid the fine in December 1957. This shows the power white state officials used against King and his compatriots in the 1950s and 60s.
His remarkable civil disobedience was an amazing and effective tool to radically change America. He was arrested 30 times and was later jailed in Alabama – and wrote his famous Letter from a Birmingham Jail on April 16, 1963.
We are indebted to lawyers like Mr. Gray and heroes like Congressman John Lewis who fought and suffered for African Americans. And by 1964 he was behind president Johnson when he signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Dr. King was neither Republican or Democrat and never endorsed a political candidate. He did say: “I don’t think the Republican party is a party full of the almighty God nor is the Democratic party. They both have weaknesses … And I’m not inextricably bound to either party.”
Did you know that Martin Luther King will be featured on the new $5 bill? Click here for wikipedia link.