June 18, 1963: Just six days after Medgar Evers had been assassinated in Jackson, white civil rights fighters Ed King and John Salter lay unconscious in Salter's blue 1961 Rambler on Hanging Moss Road—victims of what official police records called a traffic accident. "The accident destroyed the foundation of what we were trying to do; Medgar was dead and we were unconscious," King told me.
Not for long—soon he would be running for lieutenant governor of Mississippi, while Aaron Henry, the black state NAACP president, ran for governor. Today the 67-year-old King, an ordained Methodist minister, teaches at the UMC School of Health Related Professions.
King's parents taught the Vicksburg native to be fair, to have civic responsibility, to not use the N-word. In Methodist Sunday School, he pondered Ghandi's work in India as well as problems of race in the United States. While studying sociology at Millsaps, King attended meetings at Tougaloo College where students from across the state, black and white, discussed racial inequality.
At such a meeting, King met Medgar Evers, the man who, in the end, would treat him like a brother. King's innocence, and his jaw, would later be shattered—as a victim of police violence. Right then, all he cared about was that his new friends hadn't shooed him out the door as worthless to their cause. Evers drew him further into the fold.
No, the wreck didn't stop the movement, nor did it stop King. Despite disfiguring damage to the right side of his face, which took him in and out of hospitals for 12 years, King campaigned when medically able. No amount of pain could keep him from the grounds of the Washington County courthouse in Greenville in October 1963. He and Henry campaigned side-by-side where other Mississippians had held political rallies—at the foot of the Confederate monument.
Few black citizens were registered voters, but the Freedom Vote's mock election took place anyway, as did the November 1963 general elections. Over 80,000 black Mississippians voted at local churches, juke joints, beauty parlors, the few black-owned service stations—without fear of harassment by whites. No American could believe any longer that black Mississippians didn't want to vote.
"We lost on the Freedom Vote, and it was because we were both from the Delta. I was from the bottom of the Delta in Vicksburg, and he was from Clarksdale, and we figured there wasn't anything else unusual about our ticket," King quipped.
Would that it were that simple.
Ed King risked everything, and lost much, for the civil rights movement. He has unique insights and an insider's perspective. He has paid his dues and more over many years. His life gives witness to the immense worth of speaking courageously and truthfully to ruthless power. Ed King is a hero, a worthy subject for a biographer.
I think you guys will like these two stories from the Times-Picayune.
I shouldn't have used the word "like. I should have used "appreciate".
Those interested in Ed may also be interested in the project to bring the story of my investigation of the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. to film
MLK - They Slew the Dreamer - http://www.garyrevel.com/mlk