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Bulletin

President’s Message Robert R. Baugh From the President This year marks the Fiftieth Anniversary of the Civil Rights Movement in 1963.  Birmingham played a central role in the events of that year, and the City will commemorate those events throughout 2013.  Likewise, the Birmingham Bar will celebrate the role of lawyers and the legal system in 1963, and the changes that followed. The Bar, in conjunction with the Magic City Bar Association and the Birmingham Bar Foundation, will sponsor a dinner on May 4, 2013, which will recognize the role of lawyers in the events of 1963.  Debbie Smith and her committee have worked tirelessly in planning this event. The Honorary Co-Chairs are Judge U. W. Clemon, Judge Helen Shores Lee and Bill Baxley. Additionally, a film is being produced which will tell the story of the role of the rule of law in the Civil Rights events that took place in our community.  The film will premiere at the dinner and will also be shown in high schools and colleges in the Birmingham area. It is widely known that events in Birmingham played a central role in  the Civil Rights Movement. Less wellknown, however, is the role that the Birmingham Bar and its members played in helping to change the City’s Commission form of government, which had been so staunchly segregationist.   Of course, Brown v. Board of Education was decided by the United States Supreme Court in 1954. The Supreme Court held that segregation in public schools could not stand and, in later decisions, ordered that the practice must end with “all deliberate speed.”  The pace, however, was glacial in Birmingham and many other cities.   On February 21, 1961, Smyer wrote to Walter Mims, President of the Birmingham Bar, with a request:   Have the Bar offer an opinion on the best form of government for Birmingham. In 1961, Birmingham was governed by a Commission form of government: Bull Connor was the Public Safety Commissioner, Art Hanes, Sr., was the Mayor and Jabo Waggoner, Sr., was the Public Works Commissioner. The City maintained a strict set of laws that enforced segregation in most every part of life.  Whether going to the park, the Zoo or attending a movie, racial lines were enforced. Birmingham’s largest employer in 1961 was the Tennessee Coal and Iron Company (“TCI”) and the City had been dependent on heavy industry for many years.   As a result, there had been little impetus from the business community to change the status quo.  But attitudes were beginning to shift as service industries began to emerge, including the Medical College of Alabama which later became UAB.  The Chamber of Commerce played an important role as it became more and more evident that the strict racial code was hurting existing business and negatively impacting Birmingham’s ability to attract new business. Earlier, on April 12, 1960, the New York Times published the first of a twopart article written by Harrison Salisbury titled “Fear and Hatred Grip Birmingham.”  In this article, Salisbury presented an unvarnished view of the role and extent of racism in Birmingham.  The article caused great consternation in the City, including an ill-fated defamation suit by Bull Connor. Sid Smyer was a prominent businessman and was the President of Birmingham Realty.   In 1961, he was also the President of the Birmingham Chamber of Commerce. As such, his credentials in the local business community could not be questioned. Smyer, while hardly a pro- 8 Birmingham Bar Association


Bulletin
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