An excerpt from J.L. Rainey’s Journal, Selma, Alabama, March 1965, from the novel, The Clock Of Life, by Nancy Klann-Moren.
My posts will include both J.L.’s journal entries, and actual articles from The Selma Times-Journal each day until he reaches Montgomery.
This is day fourteen after he arrived in Selma to take part in the right-to-vote march to Montgomery.
Fri, Mar 19, 9pm ― It’s mind-blowing how many more marchers have come to Selma after seeing the violence on TV. The place is a sea of people moving with the tide of change, anxious to do something meaningful, looking as confident and optimistic as I looked on my first day.
The Selma Times-Journal, Friday Afternoon, March 19, 1965
Selma Tiger Claims He’s Only Big Kitten
Life Magazine couldn’t have searched, man by man, the more than 600 law enforcement officers who have been on duty at times in Selma’s racial crisis and come up with a more unlikely candidate for the stern-faced cop than Charlie Jones. But in this week’s issue of Life there was Charlie peering with beady eyes from beneath a hard-hat and chomping grimly on the stub of a cigar in a larger than real-life cover spread over a full page.
His billing was, “Selma’s Faces of Defiance – and Death,” a two-page spread which he shared with a Negro youth whose head was swathed in gauze bandages covering a wound the report said he suffered at the hands of law enforcement.
“I wish I was as big and tough as they make me look,” said Charlie, the Selma Police Department’s good humor man. “If I was, then I wouldn’t have to wear built-up shoes to look taller, and weigh with all of my gear on.”
But like everything else he does, five foot six inch Charlie (somehow it doesn’t fit even to call him Officer Jones), grinned in his own special way that warmed everyone around him and voiced no complaints.
That Charlie is as dedicated and determined as any man on the force . . . pound for pound and inch for inch . . . is a fact that none of his co-workers deny. “I’d just as soon have Charlie back me up as any man in the department,” Public Safety Director Wilson Baker said. “But you just don’t think about him in terms of unpleasantness and violence; he’s more like Charlie the cheerful cherub, or if the department had a Christmas party, it would just be taken for granted that he would be Santa Claus.”
In normal police routine, Charlie worked traffic on a two-wheel motorcycle. And when he hands out a ticket, his good humor is so contagious that his offenders usually feel like they should make a contribution to the police fund. Even the demonstrators whom he faced for many long, weary hours across a barricade last week without irritability appeared to appreciate chubby, rosy-faced Charlie’s sunny disposition.
While a blush spread across his face and turned his ears pink . . . to the delight of his fellow officers .. . . the demonstrators sang “We Love Uncle Charlie.” And to the tune of “Ol’ Time Religion,” blessed everything about him, including the cigar which he is never without.
Even though he wasn’t mentioned by name in The Selma Times-Journal, the man photographed with head bandages next to Charlie Jones name is Freddie Bennett. nkm