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Archive for the 'Wrong Side of Murder Creek' Category

Bob Zellner on “Granddaddies and Same-Sex Marriage”

Monday, June 4th, 2012 by Brian Seidman

Bob Zellner, author of The Wrong Side of Murder CreekBob Zellner, civil rights activist and author of The Wrong Side of Murder Creek: A White Southerner in the Freedom Movement, sent this missive:

I grew up in LA, lower Alabama. My Great- Granddaddy Zellner thought he could not do without slavery. Granddaddy Zellner thought he could not get along without segregation. My father’s generation thought they simply could not get along without opposite sex marriage.

I get along fine without slavery and I don’t have a personal need for segregation. As for marriage, I have tried it twice without success and hope I am done with it. For those who like it, I am happy for them to have at it any way they want it. Opposite sex, same sex, no sex, it is all the same for me.

Wait! Someone brought up bestiality. Was it Santorum? Man on dog? That might give me pause, especially if the man wants to marry his best friend. Well, it only gave me a pause, and a short one at that. If a woman wants to marry her dog and a man wants to marry his horse, who’s to say it is not the right thing for them? No skin off my teeth, no harm no foul. Right?

It reminds me of the time Chuck McDew and I visited my brother and his wife in a small town near Knoxville, Tenn. McDew, an African American born in Massillon, Ohio, was fascinated by the jobs being held down, clung to actually, by my young nephews and their wives, all white southerners, born and bred. It was in the time of the Bush vs. Gore presidential race. We were eating in a Chinese buffet near the airport surrounded by all these rural southerners so quite naturally Chuck asked whom everybody was voting for. Bush was their man, as one of my nephews proclaimed vigorously.

McDew allowed as how that did not seem right, given the bleak picture they painted of employment in Knoxville. Looking perplexed, he questioned, “Didn’t you say there no good paying jobs and you make hardly enough to pay for gas to and from work? You work at Jiffy Lube, minimum wage and you at Burger King, same wage, one wife at the dry cleaners and another at Wall Mart, and Grandma Ruth has to take care of the babies? Why on earth would you vote for Texan George Bush over Tennessean Gore?”

“Because,” my kinfolk fairly shouted in unison, “Bush is going to protect us from gay marriage!”

Chuck, completely flabbergasted by now, asked, “Do you know any gay people? Do you know any gay people who are getting married?” They all agreed that they didn’t know any gay people and didn’t know if any of them were getting married.

Later at the airport McDew said he used to worry about my poor white kinfolks and often hoped they would be able to do better. “Now,” he told me, “After what I heard today from your poor white nieces and nephews, I will never worry about poor white people again.”

Amen.

Bob Zellner lives and teaches in New York state. His memoir The Wrong Side of Murder Creek: A White Southerner in the Freedom Movement is available in both hardcover and ebook formats from NewSouth Books or your favorite bookstore.

Bob Zellner interviewed on Keith Beauchamp’s Injustice Files

Tuesday, March 8th, 2011 by Brian Seidman

The Wrong Side of Murder Creek by Bob ZellnerCivil rights activist Bob Zellner continues to advocate for equality and understanding even while balancing some newfound attention. Zellner has been interviewed for an Oprah show segment on the fiftieth anniversary of the Freedom Rides set to air May 4, and and pre-production activities continue on a feature film to be executive produced by Spike Lee based on Zellner’s award-winning memoir, published by NewSouth Books, called The Wrong Side of Murder Creek: A White Southerner in the Freedom Movement.

Zellner also appeared on an episode of the Investigation Discovery channel’s Injustice Files, which focused on the unsolved murder of Congress of Racial Equality member William Lewis Moore. Moore, a white postal worker, conducted solo protest marches for civil rights in the 1960s; he was shot and killed in Alabama during one of those marches.

For perspective on the danger Moore faced as a white civil rights activist in the South, Injustice Files host Keith Beauchamp asked Zellner to describe his own experiences. At Zellner’s first protest, he told Beauchamp, pro-segregation activists beat him “very severely,” gouging his eye and threatening him with a hangman’s rope.

“What they didn’t understand,” Zellner said, “is we weren’t just fighting on the side of black people; we were fighting to liberate ourselves” from the racist ideology.

Zellner also recently spoke at the first of California State University’s 2011 Diversity Day programs, relating his first forays into civil rights activism. Zellner’s father and grandfather were both members of the Ku Klux Klan, and it was not until a college assignment that Zellner attended a civil rights rally that included Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks. As reported in the Monterey County Weekly, Zellner credits Parks’s advice — “If you see something wrong in the world, you have to do something about it. You can’t just keep studying it.” — with inspiring him to join the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and to continue to advocate for civil rights.

Recently, the Southampton Press reported, producers from the Oprah show taped Zellner as he travelled Montgomery speaking with Klansmen and police officers who fought with activists during the Civil Rights Movement. Zellner told the Press, “It was exhilarating being back. One of the Klansmen we talked to said, ‘I’ve come to see that Bob was right and I was wrong.'”

Zellner also described trying to protect the Freedom Riders in Montgomery: “The Klan stopped the bus, blew out the tires and burned the bus up with the Freedom Riders on board. Everybody escaped, but some were really injured for life. It was such a murderous mob that they were really attempting to kill the Freedom Riders, attacking them with bricks, leaving some for dead in the streets.” Zellner recounts in greater details these and other events in The Wrong Side of Murder Creek.

Watch a segment from Injustice Files at the show’s website. You can also read about Bob Zellner from the Southampton Press and Monterey County Weekly, or visit Zellner’s own Zellner Blog.

The Wrong Side of Murder Creek, by Bob Zellner with Constance Curry, is available from NewSouth Books, Amazon, or your favorite local or online book retailer.

Maya Angelou, Shirley Sherrod support Zellner’s Wrong Side of Murder Creek movie project

Wednesday, October 6th, 2010 by Brian Seidman

Dr. Maya Angelou expressed her support for the new movie Son of the South — based on Bob Zellner’s memoir The Wrong Side of Murder Creek: A White Southerner in the Freedom Movement — with a fundraising party at her home October 3. In attendance were Zellner, Son of the South director Barry Alexander Brown, and a host of civil rights figures including former US Department of Agriculture staffer Shirley Sherrod.

Dr. Maya Angelou, Shirley Sherrod, and Bob Zellner together in support of the Son of the South movie

Dr. Maya Angelou, Shirley Sherrod, and Bob Zellner together in support of the Son of the South movie

Verane Pick described the event in an article on the Scallywag & Vagabond website. (Event photographs by Pick.)

Son of the South, with executive producer Spike Lee, will bring to the big screen the events Zellner describes in The Wrong Side of Murder Creek. In the book, Zellner chronicles a lifetime of civil rights activism, from his childhood as the son and grandson of Klansmen to field secretary of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), including his imprisonment for desegregation work and his meetings with Martin Luther King, Jr., Rosa Parks, and others.

At the Son of the South event, Dr. Angelou told Pick that “in an era of such strong polarization, where hate is again being accepted as a tolerable response to our fellow human beings, [Bob Zellner’s] story needs to be told, this story needs to be heard.”

Zellner himself described the story he tells as “not about who wins and who loses, who’s strong or who’s weak, [but rather] about standing up for what you know is right. And if you really look, you’re bound to see it: true courage isn’t measured by your fists, your tanks, or your ability to overpower your enemy, it lies in compassion, forgiveness, benevolence . . . and the joy it sprouts within.”

The Wrong Side of Murder Creek received the 2009 Lillian Smith Book Award presented by the Southern Regional Council. Library Journal gave The Wrong Side of Murder Creek a starred review, noting that “this powerful portrait of a courageous man is highly recommended”; Publishers Weekly called the book “a testament both to the courage of civil rights activists and to the hatred they overcame.”

The Wrong Side of Murder Creek, by Bob Zellner with Constance Curry, is available from NewSouth Books, Amazon, or your favorite local or online book retailer.

The Wrong Side of Murder Creek Evokes Strong Memories for Dr. Louis McLeod

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2010 by Suzanne La Rosa

In a message to Bob Zellner, author with Constance Curry of the 2009 Lillian Smith Award-winning The Wrong Side of Murder Creek: A White Southerner in the Freedom Movement, Dr. Louis McLoud recalls his relevant personal history:

Thank you, Bob Zellner, for sending a signed copy of your book. I was wanting one for my children, so that they would understand who their people are. Those times of white and colored restaurants, bathrooms, and water fountains . . . It’s so foreign to them now. When I tell my nineteen-year-old son about my experiences growing up in segregated Alabama, he says, “That’s so stupid!” (He says that about the Iraq war, too.) 

During the summer of 1963, before my senior year in high school, I met an African-American Methodist minister from Tuskegee — Rev. J.C. Wilson was his name — who encouraged me to gather some white teens from Auburn to meet with some of the youth of his church, the Bowen United Methodist Church.  Auburn High School was segregated at the time, so my white friends and I met a number of times to plan our trip to Tuskegee, planning for Lingo’s troopers, etc. We encountered nothing like what you did in Montgomery, but did have our car tags run when we all got together at the Wesley Foundation at Auburn. 

A year or so later, in late 1964 or early 1965, at a meeting of the Alabama Council on Human Relations, I shared some of these experiences and impressions with Virginia Durr, the white civil rights activist who played such a crucial role in helping bring about change in Alabama. She asked why my friends and I had not met with the black youths in Auburn. She had a great point, to which my only answer was that we had to start somewhere. I do think that what our getting together did in some small way help pave the way for integrating the high schools after I left for college.

Separately, let me also mention that as a result of my contact with Rev. Wilson, I was asked to speak at the annual youth meeting of the Central Conference of the Methodist Church,  held in Birmingham in June 1964. It was held at St. Paul’s Methodist Church, which is located on the same block as the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church. I traveled to Birmingham in the company of a friend. You can imagine our astonishment to see the bombed church. Tensions at that time still ran so high that the sight of two white boys in the black crowd outside the church occasioned a red pickup truck that was turning the corner to screech to a stop! You can understand when I say that we were somewhat scared. But clearly, Bob, you understand that change can be frightening sometimes.

Spike Lee’s Son of the South, Bob Zellner story, begins Alabama filming

Tuesday, January 5th, 2010 by Andrew

Alabama recently played host to film crews as the cities of Greenville and Montgomery saw college students from across central Alabama cast as extras in Son of the South, a Spike Lee produced film based on NewSouth author Bob Zellner’s memoir The Wrong Side of Murder Creek: A White Southerner in the Freedom Movement.

Director Barry Alexander Brown, a Montgomery native and longtime film editor for Spike Lee, chose Greenville’s Court Square Cafe to film a lunch counter sit-in scene for the upcoming film. Film crews then moved on for a day of shooting in Montgomery and will be completing filming during the summer of 2010. Son of the South is set for release in 2011.

The Wrong Side of Murder Creek chronicles Zellner’s lifetime of civil rights activism, from his childhood as the son and grandson of Klansmen to field secretary of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). In the early 1960s he joined ranks with the black students who were sitting-in, marching, fighting, and sometimes dying to challenge the southern “way of life” he had been raised on but rejected.

Zellner received the 2009 Lillian Smith Book Award for The Wrong Side of Murder Creek.

Read more about the local filming in the Greenville Advocate.

The Wrong Side of Murder Creek is available directly from NewSouth Books, Amazon.com, or your favorite local or online book retailer.

Bob Zellner’s Wrong Side of Murder Creek Wins Lillian Smith Book Award

Monday, July 20th, 2009 by Andrew

The Southern Regional Council in conjunction with the University of Georgia Libraries recently named NewSouth author Bob Zellner a recipient of the 2009 Lillian Smith Book Award for his civil rights memoir The Wrong Side of Murder Creek: A White Southerner in the Freedom Movement.

The Wrong Side of Murder Creek chronicles Zellner’s lifetime of civil rights activism, from his childhood as the son and grandson of Klansmen to field secretary of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). In the early 1960s he joined ranks with the black students who were sitting-in, marching, fighting, and sometimes dying to challenge the southern “way of life” he had been raised on but rejected. Still involved in activism, Zellner currently lives and teaches in New York state.

Presented by the Southern Regional Council since 1968, and jointly with the University of Georgia Libraries since 2004, the Lillian Smith Book Awards honors those authors who, through their outstanding writing about the American South, carry on Smith’s legacy of elucidating the condition of racial and social inequity and proposing a vision of justice and human understanding. Awards are presented for works of fiction and non-fiction, and previous winners include such celebrated novelists as Alice Walker, Pat Conroy, and Cormac McCarthy.

This year’s awards ceremony will be held on September 6, at 2:30 p.m. in Decatur, Georgia during the annual Decatur Book Festival.

The Wrong Side of Murder Creek is available from NewSouth Books, Amazon.com, or your favorite local or online book retailer.

Bob Zellner Talks Wrong Side of Murder Creek, Non-Violence at Huntingdon College

Tuesday, March 17th, 2009 by Andrew

NewSouth author and civil rights activist Bob Zellner recently visited Huntingdon College as a guest speaker for a special Presidential Colloquy in his honor in the office of Huntingdon president Cameron West. Zellner, a Huntingdon alum, delivered his lecture on Monday, March 9, where he discussed his role in the civil rights movement as well as his memoir, The Wrong Side of Murder Creek: A White Southerner in the Freedom Movement.

NewSouth author and civil rights activist Bob Zellner with Huntingdon College president Cam West

In an intimate, educational setting, students, faculty, and guests from the surrounding community heard Zellner discuss how he grew from an Alabama Klan heritage to joined ranks with the black students who were sitting-in, marching, fighting, and sometimes dying to challenge the Southern “way of life” he’d been raised on but rejected. From his meetings and jail-time spent with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to his countless arrests for breaking Alabama’s segregation laws, Zellner painted a vivid portrait of an Alabama that is all too often lost on the modern generation’s youth.

During a question and answer portion of the colloquy, Zellner fielded questions ranging from his thoughts on feminism’s role in the civil rights movement, to comparing modern race relations to those during the civil rights movement. Additionally, Zellner briefly discussed the parallels between Barack Obama’s historic rise to the office of the President and the nonviolent struggle of those who paved the way for his success during the civil rights movement, citing the great power nonviolence inherently possesses as a vehicle for change.

Said Suellen Ofe, Associate Vice President for Communications and Marketing at Huntingdon College, “The stories Bob shared were not only captivating, but also motivational. His humanitarian message was artfully and sincerely balanced between words of God’s grace and forceful commands to make the world a better place. The end result was vigorous discussion among students, faculty, and staff. We held onto him as long as we could–the questions, fervent and lively, just kept coming. In my opinion, it was the best colloquy we have ever had.”

The Wrong Side of Murder Creek, Bob Zellner’s larger-than-life memoir in which he describes in greater detail the events discussed in his lecture, is available directly from NewSouth Books, Amazon.com, or your favorite local or online book retailer.

Bob Zellner Talks Obama Election in Newsday, Washington Times

Friday, February 6th, 2009 by Andrew

Newsday newspaper has published an editorial by NewSouth author and civil rights activist Bob Zellner, where Zellner discusses the parallels between Barack Obama’s historic rise to the office of the President and the nonviolent struggle of those who paved the way for his success during the civil rights movement. NewSouth recently released Zellner’s memoir, The Wrong Side of Murder Creek: A White Southerner in the Freedom Movement, in which Zellner tells how he grew from an Alabama Klan heritage to joined ranks with the black students who were sitting-in, marching, fighting, and sometimes dying to challenge the Southern “way of life” he’d been raised on but rejected.  In recognition of Black History Month and Barack Obama’s recent election to the presidency, Zellner’s story of nonviolence in the struggle for racial equality has become especially relevant.

From Zellner’s Newsday editorial:

Obama, against advice to the contrary, insisted on clinging to nonviolent politics through the campaign – for example, sticking to his statement that the United States “must talk to its enemies” and his plan to visit a Muslim country in his first 100 days in office.

The internal spirit of this new politics springs from the soul force of black people, developed during centuries of slavery and repression. Warriors of the civil rights movement learned they could not harbor hate against enemies and maintain their own physical, mental, and spiritual health.

Now, imagine all the power of the new nonviolent army, organized during the Obama campaign, turning its power on places like the devastated Gulf Coast or even Darfur?

Read Zellner’s full article at the Newsday website.

Zellner also recently spoke with the Washington Times in an article about Barack Obama’s election and its effect on nonviolent politics and modern race relations within the United States.  From the article:

“One lesson from the Civil War to the freedom fighters … to the Obama movement, is that nonviolent politics works. And we have an army now to make change in this country and in the world,” said Mr. Zellner, a retired history professor.

He rightfully added that black warriors were aided at every step of the journey by many whites, adding that Mr. Obama is “another transformative figure,” who “brings the message that white people can do something about racism.” Mr. Obama “will bring people together because we know we have much more important problems than the color of someone’s skin,” Mr. Zellner said.

Read the full article at the Washington Times website.

Zellner was also a featured guest on WKRF’s The Jim Engster Show, where he discussed civil rights activism and his role in the civil rights movement. Learn more about the program or listen online.

The Wrong Side of Murder Creek is available directly from NewSouth Books, Amazon.com, or your favorite local or online book retailer.

Civil Rights Lawyer Charles Morgan Jr. Dies

Sunday, January 11th, 2009 by Randall Williams

Chuck Morgan, 78, one of the most colorful and powerful legal advocates for civil rights in the 1960s, died January 8, 2009, of complications of Alzheimer’s disease. He “died peacefully at his Destin, Fla., home,” the local newspaper reported. I hope that was so, and if it was, then it was one of the few things Chuck ever did “peacefully.” He was a larger-than-life personality who not only recognized the injustices in society but did something about them. There’s a good story by Roy Reed in the New York Times about Chuck’s passing.

NewSouth’s author Bob Zellner also wrote movingly about Chuck in The Wrong Side of Murder Creek. Here’s a passage from the book:

The everyday slog and the relentless work load could get us down, so spirits always soared when outside help arrived to reinforce what we already knew—that what we were doing was important and that the word was getting out up North. The joy was even greater when the help came from a progressive Southern lawyer, who by definition had to be both courageous and slightly crazy to get involved in civil rights cases. One such lawyer was the outspoken Charles Morgan Jr. from rough-tough Birmingham. Victor was already comfortable with our legal standing, assuring us that the Bill of Rights applied even in the primitive backwoods courts of darkest Alabama. What Big Chuck brought was joie de vivre and utter fearlessness. Chuck was not bashful about letting the courthouse thugs and hangers-on know that he was onto their game. He’d been to enough rural courtrooms in Alabama to know that the “Courthouse Gang” was there to prop up the powers that be by hanging around to whittle sticks, spit tobacco, and glare menacingly—we called it “the hate stare”—at outsiders or anybody else the sheriff and the judge didn’t like.

Morgan went about his work in Talladega with such gusto that we felt less stressed. After court we gathered around him in his tiny motel room as he spun hilarious yarns of past exploits. “The other day,” Chuck said, “I had to go down to Greene County—that’s in the Black Belt—where I’m defending a poor black man. I told Camille, my wife, I might not make it back if the rednecks down there know about me ranting up here in Birmingham against Bull Connor. When she asked if I really had to go, I told her yes, if this man is to escape spending the rest of his natural life in jail for just trying to register. ‘What’d they charge him with?’ my wife asked. I told her it was carnal knowledge of a chicken, a tough charge to defend against.”

From the center of his sagging bed Morgan would lean over and put down his sweating glass of iced bourbon and branch water. He’d grab the phone and call the respected journalist Claude Sitton at the New York Times. “Claude, I got a report from the front.” Pause. “What do you mean what front? It’s the only front that matters right now—Morgan defending Zellner, the Bradens, and now Rabinowitz and Madame Grant—nothing but me standing betwixt them and the benighted lawlessness of the Great State of Alabama! My favorite kind of story, Mr. Sitton.” Another pause. “Sir, it certainly is news that’s fit to print. You ought to be down here to see it for yourself, but since you ain’t, let me tell you about it in living color.” Sitton was an Atlantan and the NYT’s chief Southern correspondent. He reported widely on civil rights from 1958–64. Morgan’s bantering with him was partly for our entertainment and also to make sure that our activities would stay in the national focus, thus bringing additional support and some measure of protection.

Rabinowitz and Grant had been added to the injunction when they showed up for my hearing. By the second or third day of the hearing, Morgan and Rabinowitz, with help from another volunteer attorney, Arthur Kinoy (later a co-founder of the Center for Constitutional Rights), had prepared a countersuit against the state of Alabama, Talladega County, et al. That morning our group, led by Morgan, had woven our way through the usual crowd of whittlers and spitters outside the courthouse. Inside, Chuck motioned for me to follow him down the stairs. We marched into the basement where many county employees worked, and he announced loudly with a big smile, “Mr. Zellner and I have just accused all of y’all of being white.”

Most of the time things in SNCC were so hectic and our lawyers were so busy trying to keep us out of jail or getting us out of jail that there was no time for preparing proactive suits. In Talladega, however, we were lucky to have these feisty attorneys working for us. So when Morgan impishly accused all the county employees of being white, he was deadly serious. Our counter-injunction asked the federal government to ban segregated courtrooms, all-white juries, and all-white judges and sheriffs. Morgan and Rabinowitz asked that all proceedings against civil rights workers and black voter registration aspirants be removed to federal courts.

The very next morning our entry into the courthouse changed dramatically. As Chuck and I approached the front steps and the waiting courthouse gang, he simply pushed his seersucker jacket aside just enough to reveal a huge gun snugly nestled in a beautiful brown leather shoulder holster. The gang parted like the Red Sea for Moses, and we sailed peacefully into the courthouse. As it turned out, Chuck was friends with the sheriff and had cleared this ploy in advance, but at the time his only comment was, “Zellner, maybe you know how to be nonviolent and survive. My mama told me, ‘Son, walk loudly and carry a big piece.’”

We were sworn to nonviolence in all our public affairs, but . . . we were kicking ass in the courtroom and it seemed that Charles Morgan Jr., Esquire, of Birmingham, was prepared to kick it on the courthouse lawn if push came to shove.

And another passage from the same book:

Wallace and his prosecutors were delighted with the prospect of trying me on something other than the political charge of conspiracy. Conspiring to do what? They had no evidence of plans to demonstrate at Wallace’s inaugural. So their Plan B was to convict Zellner on a bad check charge and send him to the penitentiary for ten years. Maybe he wouldn’t survive the Alabama prison system!

Chuck Morgan assisted Clifford Durr at my trial. Clifford in frail health and was exhausted, and Morgan was always spoiling for a civil rights legal fight. I remember at one point coming out of the courtroom and I had a cigarette in my hand and my hands were cuffed in front of me, and the photographer was there, and I didn’t expect the photographer, so I smiled and he took the picture. Chuck told me later, “No matter if you are acquitted or convicted or there’s a hung jury, never smile when you come out of the courtroom, because you weren’t supposed to be arrested to begin with.”

When they took me to the jail, I guess it was the same jail Rosa Parks had been in, and Martin Luther King, and even Hank Williams a time or two. One of my classmates from Huntingdon was the brand new jailer. The newsmen interviewed him, and they asked how it felt to lock up his old classmate, Bob Zellner. I wasn’t treated badly at all.

Cliff and Chuck had a good defense for the all-white, mostly male Montgomery jury. The prosecution said that I had purchased a camera for $85 from the pawn shop on Friday afternoon. Because I traveled so much, my SNCC paycheck was automatically deposited in Atlanta each week. The police wouldn’t let Mr. Erlich, the shop owner, deposit my check. Instead, the cops called the bank in Atlanta to see what my checking account balance was and were told that at the moment there was less than $85. But they were also told that the bank knew the account and knew that a deposit was made each Friday. The bank said the check would be honored. Nevertheless, that was the state’s case against me.

“The check,” Mr. Durr argued, “could not be evidence of false pretenses since it was never presented for payment, nor was it ever returned for insufficient funds.” The prosecutors could not have it both ways. In closing arguments, Morgan marched his ample frame up and down in front of the hometown jury, waxing homespun as he asked each juror, “How many times have you, or your spouse, bought groceries on Friday based on the family paycheck that was to be deposited that afternoon?”

Then in summation, Clifford Durr, as courtly a Southern gentleman as anyone ever saw, rail thin in his crisp seersucker suit and bending slightly forward because of his bad back, delivered the final blow. He asked the jurors, “How would you feel if the Governor or the police were mad at you and took the check out of your grocer’s hand, called your bank and then tried to put you in jail for ten years because someone at the bank said you didn’t have enough money?”

However, long before Cliff drove these last nails into the coffin of Wallace’s case against me, Chuck had done something in open court that determined the outcome of the trial. It is rare that the opening shot is the one that decides the battle, but that is what happened. We had spent weeks asking the progressive ministers of the conference and their wives to attend my trial in support of a fellow Methodist in trouble because of an issue of conscience. We had asked them to be prepared to be called as character witnesses.
Mrs. Francis McLeod, the grande dame of Alabama Methodists and the mother of a brood of charismatic and successful preachers in our conference, agreed to lead the charge against the state for trying to imprison me for ten years. This famous Methodist momma was the mother of Dad’s best friend, Reverend Fletcher McLeod. Another son, Powers McLeod, was everybody’s pick to be bishop someday.

Chuck’s simple but brilliant maneuver, as the judge gaveled the crowded court session to order, caught everybody off guard. He stood and addressed the judge, “Your Honor, there are several preachers here with their wives who are character witnesses for my client, Mr. Bob Zellner. Mr. Durr and I have not had the opportunity to interview all of them. In the interest of saving the time of the court, if it please your honor, would you ask for them to stand so we may identify Mr. Zellner’s character witnesses? I don’t know how many of them are here.”

Before the prosecutor could object and before the judge realized he was being poleaxed in his own courtroom, the judge asked the character witnesses to stand. Almost the entire audience stood up. Case closed.

Bob Zellner Talks Civil Rights Activism on WKRF’s The Jim Engster Show

Friday, December 19th, 2008 by Brian Seidman

Civil rights activist Bob Zellner spoke about his new memoir The Wrong Side of Murder Creek: A White Southerner in the Freedom Movement on December 16 with WKRF Louisiana’s Jim Engster.

In the interview on The Jim Engster Show, Bob talks about his early forays into the civil rights movement while a student at Huntingdon College in Montgomery, Alabama and his work with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. Bob also relates his experiences in Louisiana, including being jailed at the East Baton Rouge Parish prison for his desegregation work, the forming of his organization GROW in New Orleans, and his graduate study at Tulane University. Bob speaks with a number of callers about meeting Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks, being expelled from Huntingdon for his civil rights work, and the recent presidential election of Senator Barack Obama.

Listen online to Bob Zellner on the Jim Engster Show. Bob also reads from The Wrong Side of Murder Creek on YouTube.

Bob also recently spoke with WCBM Maryland’s Maggie Pascal on Turning the Tide. He will also appear on WPOJ Portland’s Thom Hartmann Show on December 24.

The Wrong Side of Murder Creek is available directly from NewSouth Books, Amazon.com, or your favorite local or online book retailer.