Pastor Graetz had come here white, with his white family, ministering to a black congregation, and he was not well liked in the white community, according to his own words. According to my grandmother, he’s just all you could think of. A white man in the midst of Negros, helping them to gain their freedom.
This house has been here since about ’55. Pastor Graetz is the first pastor that I remember living here. He had a wife and two children, so it was a wonderful thing because to come to church we had all of this area to play on after church and between Sunday school and church.
We understand that there was some parishioners who did not like the idea of having a white minister. I never heard my mother or father say anything to that. He attended all the meetings with Dr. King, he knew exactly who his stalwarts were in that group of ministers. ‘Til this day, I’m real proud, because I know that he had to be afraid…bombs in yards and all that kind of stuff, with children. I know he had to be.
There were two bombs here. The first bomb blew a whole so large that they planted that hackberry tree in the crater that it left. That’s our historic tree and part of the great history of this church.
The second bomb was several sticks of dynamite that they said was so potent it would have destroyed this house and the church. It was stamped out and the bomb did not blow.
We had so many other things that happened. We know that Mrs. Parks, for example, met with her NAACP group of young people at our church on a periodic basis. We had a pastor who was intricately woven into the Montgomery Improvement Association and the bus boycott.
Pastor Graetz, I think, found himself in the midst of a movement that involved his parishioners, and as a result, I think he felt compelled to become a part. And he had to be visible, he was the only white. And I think to this day, part of the gumption that I have, part of the reason that I’m able to really speak my mind when I’m in places is because right here in Montgomery, there is a tree that was born in the crater of a bomb blast, that tried to hurt people and stifle freedom.
I always say to myself, “if Pastor Graetz can do that, then surely I can do this.”