20 / ’southern
everal students on campus had moral compasses that would
not allow them to be apathetic. One was Marti Turnipseed
’65, an English major, who joined a civil rights rally at a
black church and a sit-in at a Woolworth’s lunch counter
(see story on facing page). Another was Sam Shirah,
who left BSC to join the movement full-time, joining the Student
Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. But first came top debater
and ministerial student Tom Reeves ’60 (see class notes obits),
who began quietly meeting with African-American students from
nearby Daniel Payne College. At the time, Reeves was serving as
an assistant at Woodlawn United Methodist Church; he angered
segregationist Methodists when he stood up in a Methodist Laymen’s
Union meeting at Highlands Methodist Church at Five Points South
in Birmingham to profess that the church was called to include all
persons, regardless of race.
In the spring of 1960, Reeves landed on the radar of the Ku Klux
Klan when he publicly supported Daniel Payne students who had
staged a sit-in at a restaurant in downtown Birmingham. He was
later arrested and charged with “intimidating witnesses” when police
claimed he was advising the students on how to testify at their
upcoming trial.
“After Reeves and his father left the jail, they stopped at a barber
shop on Arkadelphia Road for a haircut. While Reeves was in one
chair, a second barber started talking with his customer in the other
chair,” Stanford wrote in his recollections of the time.
“The barber commented on how scandalous it was that a
Birmingham-Southern student was trying to stir up trouble and
speculated about what ought to be done to him … The customer
responded quickly to the barber’s question. He said something to
the effect that if Reeves weren’t strung up, he ought to be run of out
of town.”
At a meeting of college officials on April 8, 1960, Stanford
announced his refusal to punish or expel Reeves. That night,
someone burned a cross on the front lawn of the president’s
home—a fiery message of warning. The incident was recorded by
city police as a fraternity prank.
Four days later, the
New York Times
published its famous front page
article, “Fear and Hatred Grip Birmingham,” written by Harrison E.
Salisbury, who was scheduled to speak at a Birmingham-Southern
lecture series April 19. In the article, he described both the Reeves
incident and the petition that was signed by BSC students.
Connor threatened to arrest Salisbury if he showed up; needless to
say, Salisbury found a replacement speaker for the lecture.
In January 1962, when Stanford left BSC to become the highly
successful president at the University of Miami, A
article described him as “… a leader with convictions and the
manifest courage to express them.”
In June 1963, Dr. Howard Phillips was sworn in, replacing Stanford
as college president.
Tom Reeves
Sam Shirah
Dr. Howard Phillips, BSC President 1963-68
Photo courtesy of the Alabama Department
of Archives and History, Montgomery
1...,12,13,14,15,16,17,18,19,20,21 23,24,25,26,27,28,29,30,31,32,...68