Documenting the American South Logo
Excerpt from Oral History Interview with U. W. Clemon, July 17, 1974. Interview A-0006. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Racial dimensions of Birmingham politics

Clemon describes his 1973 race for city council and the controversy caused by the Progressive Democratic Council's endorsement of two white candidates in addition to Clemon in the Birmingham city council race. The council has been unresponsive to rank-and-file black Alabamians for the past ten years, Clemon thinks.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with U. W. Clemon, July 17, 1974. Interview A-0006. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

Right. The city council race was a fairly interesting race. Arthur Shores, who was the first black lawyer in the state to handle civil rights cases, handled some of the leading constitutional cases involving the rights of black folks in this case for a long number of years—something like 25 years—was, in 1970, appointed to the Birmingham city council. He was the first black member of that council. And he was appointed to serve a term that was about to expire. He ran for the position in the 1970 election and won handily over his white opponent. Gathered quite a bit of white support. Well, he had total white support, even in 1970. He and two other members of the city council. . . I'm sorry, three other members of the city council were up for re-election last October. In the general election there were 21 candidates, including the incumbents, the four incumbents. As a result of that election the field was reduced to six because Nina Miggaliano [?] won the election outright. She had the backing of virtually all the political groups in the city. The white councilwoman who did win the election right out unknown required to be in the run off so that left six of us in the run off. And in the run off the Jefferson county Progressive Democratic Council endorsed Arthur Shores, myself and councilman Overton, a white dentist here. There were two other blacks in the run off besides Arthur Shores and I. And there was quite a feeling of resentment on the part of the black community that the Progressive Democratic Council had overlooked these blacks. And the election results showed that Arthur Shores won handily over all the white candidates in the run off in every white box. He did not carry any black box in the run off. Which indicated to me, at least, that some dissatisfaction on the part of the rank and file blacks with the leadership accorded by the Jefferson County Progressive Democratic Council.
Do you think that will be a sort of permanent thing or a one time expression?
I think its rather difficult to say at this point. I think it's going to depend to a great extent on what the council does in the up coming elections. It's probably fair to say that within the last ten years the council has really not been reflective of the feelings of a majority of the blacks in the county. And it's been unresponsive, basically, to their interests.
Do you think, then, that reaction against the council hurt you also?
I think that's probably true.