Every time Dr. King spoke here, I made it my business to be here, because he could make the hair stand on the back of your neck. He’d give you goosebumps. This man was a motivator every time you heard him speak.
16th Street has always been a magnet. It’s the first colored church in Birmingham and when they moved to this location, it became almost an entertainment center for everything that went on in the city for as black people concerned.
When I was about 11 or 12 years old and my parents came and joined here, but as I matured and got to be older, I made my own decisions about how often I would come, which was not that often, until the Civil Rights Movement came about.
When we would march out of the church, we’d march across the park and go to one of the downtown stores, and go to the lunch counter, and demanded to be served. But certainly we were refused and the police were called and hauled us away.
We had the selective buying campaign, but we might not have been the ones to shut the stores down. The stores were shut down because of the demonstrations, people could not get downtown to shop.
I’ve never been bitten by a dog, but I was hit by the fire hose right across the face, and believe me it felt like it was about to blind me.
This church has probably meant everything to me, and that’s because of the bombing.
At the time I worked for Pizitz Department Store and as I was driving home, I noticed the police cars and I said “Something must be going on.” So I cut my radio on to see what was happening and I found out that the 16th Street Baptist Church had been bombed.
The windows in the rear of the church were completely blown out. But the next window right next to them stayed intact and just the missing face of Christ was completely blown out like somebody cut it out.
If I’d found out that four girls got killed here, I probably would have passed out in my car because my sister played the piano for Sunday school here.
I was a freshman at Miles College, and I was not doing very well in school, spending my dad’s money and spending too much time with the boys in the street. But then after, I got involved in the Movement. I went back to school, dedicated myself to trying to learn.
After the bombing and realizing what devastation that caused, I decided that for sure I was gonna take the route of Mohammad Ali, who was my hero. So when I was drafted in the military, I refused to go to Vietnam.
I’m president of the usher board. I’m a substitute Sunday school teacher. I recently joined the male chorus. I served as treasurer one time. I’ve been on the board of trustees. So I guess I’ve done everything but preach.
The Wales Window is my favorite piece in the church. The Wales Window depicts a black man suffering on the cross like Christ. With the one hand he’s pushing away oppression and segregation, and with the other hand he reaches for forgiveness and reconciliation. At the very bottom of the window you have the words “you do to me,” and that comes from the 25th Chapter of Matthew, the 40th verse, Christ speaking says “what you do to the least of these, my brethren, you’ve done unto me.”
This facility has to be preserved and remembered. This is our history.