By Forrest Castleberry
Published Date: December 21, 1956
“That was a might good ride.”
“It was a great ride.”
The comments came from the Rev. Ralph D. Abernathy and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., respectively, as they stood in Court Square just after completing their first ride on an integrated bus at 7:20 a.m. today.
The two top officials of the Montgomery Improvement Association boarded the South Jackson Street bus at Key Street and South Jackson. King took the third seat from the front and Abernathy sat in front of him on the second seat from the front.
A white minister sat beside King. He was Rev. Glenn Smiley, a native of Texas who is now field secretary of the Fellowship of Reconciliation with headquarters in New York City.
The ride into the heart of the city was without incident except for the flashing of bulbs by photographers, who had advance word as to when and where King and Abernathy would board the bus and got on at the same time they did.
King was the first to get on and the driver asked:
DRIVER ASKS NAME
“Is this the reverend?”
“That’s right,” King answered. “How much?” referring to the fare.
“Fifteen,” said the driver.
Answering questions from newsmen, King said this was the first time he had ridden a bus in more than a year – since December 1955, when the boycott started.
He construed the day’s events as “very historical” and said he only hopes the movement (toward the end of segregation) will continue to grow and “mean better human relations.”
Asked if he expected any trouble in Montgomery, King said he did not anticipate any major trouble and that if there is any at all it would be minor.
“If any trouble does occur I feel the proper authorities will take cognizance and that it will be stopped immediately,” he said. He referred specifically to police and city officials.
Smiley said he took the ride just in order to get the reaction as his organization had been urging non-violence for 42 years.
“This is the largest demonstration of this sort of thing in the United States and is tremendously interesting to us.” He added.
Before King an Abernathy boarded the bus a newsman got on at Court Square and asked the driver, “What going on?”
“Aw, noting,” he replied.
At the time (7 a.m.), one Negro woman of about 50 had gotten on the bus at the same stop and went to the next to the last seat in the rear. She was the only other passenger.
The driver said that on previous runs he had carried no white persons but several Negroes, with some taking seats to the front and other to the rear.
The lone passenger on this run got off two blocks later but in a short while anther Negro woman, also about 50 got on and took the same seat.
When the bus stopped at Thurman and South Jackson, a Negro man of about 50 and a Negro girl of about 20 got aboard and sat together on a seat second from the front.
“Going to have a good Christmas?” he asked.
TURN TO WEATHER
“I hope so,” she replied, and then their talk turned to the weather.
The next passengers were the boycott leaders.
Light loads marked the early morning trips on the Highland Ave. run and white passengers appeared undisturbed by the few Negroes who boarded the bus and sat near the front.
The white passengers talked about the dreary weather, prospects for a good holiday and the cost of living. They seemed set on avoiding any talk of integration.
On returning to Court Square, the bus disembarked its passengers in the midst of a group of Negro leaders and newsmen. During the flash of cameras and the clicking of television equipment, three old men sat quietly on the passenger benches, one calmly reading a newspaper with his magnifying glass.
Later in the morning, a well dressed Negro boarded a bus at the Court Square stop and sat in front of a white man. There was no visible reaction.
Three Negro ministers, the Revs. King and Abernathy and W. F. Powell, forecast that comparatively few Negroes would ride the buses today, but King expressed belief the “vast majority” would start riding them “in the next two weeks.”
Before one newsman boarded a bus for a 7 a.m. run, he stood near three young white men who had been watching the integrated buses pass at Montgomery St. and Court Square.
“I never thought this would happen in Montgomery,” one of them said.
“The day’s not over yet,” said the other.