Friday, January 29, 2010

Black History Month: Remembering "Bloody Sunday," March 7, 1965

The first time I stopped for lunch at The Glass House Restaurant in Selma, Alabama, I was surprised to discover that patrons write all over the interior walls of that establishment (something like the way folks throw their peanut hulls on the floor at The Shack in Marion!). If, as Simon and Garfunkel sang in The Sound of Silence, “the words of the prophets are written on the subway walls,” then, there may be some profound stuff on the walls of The Glass House.

What really struck me, however, was the fact that “Bloody Sunday” took place literally right out in front of the restaurant, and that The Glass House was witness to it all. It felt surreal sitting there eating my hamburger while reflecting on the brutal scenes I had witnessed as a kid unfolding on my television screen back in Huntsville, Alabama.

“Bloody Sunday,” March 7, 1965, was the first of three Selma marches in 1965 which marked the political and emotional peak of the U. S. Civil Rights Movement. The first march had its origins here in Marion, Alabama, when Jimmie Lee Jackson was shot by an Alabama State Trooper during a nighttime civil rights demonstration which erupted in violence near the Perry County Courthouse. Taken to Selma’s Good Samaritan Hospital, Jackson died eight days later from an infection resulting from the gunshot wound .

Grave of Jimmie Lee Jackson outside Marion, AL, on Highway 14 East. (Credit: MMI Archives)

In response, Civil Rights leaders in Selma called for a nonviolent protest march from Selma to Montgomery to confront Governor George C. Wallace. On March 7th, some 600 civil rights marchers, lead by John Lewis and Hosea Williams, and followed by Bob Mants and Albert Turner, Sr., of Marion, proceeded peaceably across Selma’s Edmund Pettus Bridge en route to Montgomery, only to find a wall of state troopers and local police awaiting them on the other side. The demonstrators were ordered to disband at once and go home. They stood quietly and awaited being arrested. Instead, donning gas masks and welding billy clubs, the state troopers moved in pushing the demonstrators backward and slashing at them with their clubs. Other troopers fired tear gas into the marchers, and mounted troopers charged into the melee which eventually pushed the demonstrators back across the bridge and back into the African American neighborhoods, the demonstrators being beaten and harassed along the way. Some seventeen demonstrators were hospitalized.

The Edmund Pettus Bridge (named for a Confederate general and later U. S. Senator) spanning the Alabama River at Selma, AL (third march, March 21, 1965). (Credit: New York World-Telegram and Sun Collection, Library of Congress)

The marchers, led by Hosea Williams and John Lewis, descending the bridge. (Credit:

The troopers advance on the halted marchers. (Credit:

The police riot begins. John Lewis is being clubbed in the foreground. Haisten’s Mattress & Awning Company appears in the background. (Credit:

The Haisten’s Mattress & Awning Company building today. (Credit: MMI Archives)

Tear gas is fired into the marchers. (Credit: Federal Bureau of Investigation photo)

Helping the injured. The Glass House Restaurant appears in the background. Credit:

The Glass House today. The building in the right background is a former hamburger place that advertised 15-cent hamburgers in 1965. (Credit: MMI Archives)

John Lewis and other marchers being clubbed. In the background is the “15-cent Hamburgers” sign. (Credit: Encyclopedia of Alabama at

The Glass House. To the lower rear of The Glass House sign is a square open metal sign atop a larger sign that read “15-cent Hamburgers” in 1965. To the right of that sign is the Edmund Pettus Bridge. (Credit: MMI Archives)

A close-up of the “15-cent Hamburgers” sign today (now Sammy’s Paint & Body Shop). (Credit: MMI Archives)

The horrifying scenes played out “live” on national and state-wide television, arousing mass support for the U. S. Civil Rights Movement, and naming the brutal day “Bloody Sunday.” A second march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge on March 9th, was largely a “ceremonial “ demonstration as it was pre-planned to halt on the other side due to a temporary restraining order issued by Federal District Court Judge Frank Johnson. The third march – the famous “Selma to Montgomery Voting Rights March” – began on March 21, 1965, and lasted five days and four nights covering a 54-mile route along U. S. Highway 80 (the “Jefferson Davis Highway” in Alabama) from Selma to the steps of the State Capitol Building in Montgomery. Here Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., delivered his noted “How Long, Not Long” speech. President Lyndon B. Johnson, having witnessed “Bloody Sunday” on television - as millions of us did – enacted legislation which would become the Voting Rights Act of 1965. In a speech before Congress, Johnson even used the U. S. Civil Rights Movement’s most famous slogan, “We shall overcome.”

The third march: “The Selma to Montgomery Voting Rights March,” March 21 – 25, 1965. (Credit: James Karales/Duke University Special Collections Library)

Barack Obama, John Lewis, and Hillary and Bill Clinton crossing the Edmund Pettus Bridge during the March 4, 2007, commemoration of the historic Selma marches. (Credit: Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Photographs of “Bloody Sunday” reveal certain buildings in the background on U. S. Highway 80: The Glass House, Haisten’s Mattress and Awning to its right, and a hamburger place (“15-cent Hamburgers”) to the left of The Glass House - all three beside each other and facing the highway.

U. S. Highway 80 from Selma to Montgomery, AL, has been designated the Selma to Montgomery Voting Rights Trail, a U. S. National Historic Trail.

Selma to Montgomery National Historic Trail sign. (Credit:

Finally, should you wish to watch scenes of “Bloody Sunday” on YouTube (from a special program on Alabama Governor George C. Wallace), check out

Friday, January 22, 2010

Meet Mr. Jefferson and General Lee

The MMI Archives includes two large, unique busts of Thomas Jefferson and Robert E. Lee, both of which were formerly housed in the MMI Library, both past and present. Both sculptures sat on the floor of the MMI Archives until recently when Mr. John L. Hunter, MMI JC 1971, graciously purchased two beautiful cherry wood pedestals on which to display them. Both Mr. Jefferson and “Marse Robert” have seen better days as both were subject to various cadet pranks and vandalism over the years (General Lee reportedly hung from the Marion water tower across from the Institute!).

Entitled “The Beloved General,” the original solid wood bust of Robert E. Lee was sculpted by Bruno Louis Zimm (1876-1943), and was presented to MMI on January 19, 1960, by Mrs. Louise Hasbrouck Zimm and Dr. Bruno H. Zimm, donors.

Here are three images of our Lee bust taken by Kelly Griffiths, director of our library:

Among other notable works, Bruno Louis Zimm sculpted three panels entitled “The Struggle for the Beautiful” for the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco, CA. (Credit:

If you are a Virginian – and, especially if you attended Jefferson’s University of Virginia in Charlottesville – Thomas Jefferson is always referred to as Mr. Jefferson and he is spoken of as if he were just around the corner. You’ll hear the term “Jeffersonian” a lot! Monticello (the “Big House”), Jefferson’s home, overlooks Charlottesville and his University.

Our bust of Mr. Jefferson probably came to MMI via Hopson Owen Murfee, son of our founder, James T. Murfee, and MMI’s second president. H. O. and his younger brother, Walter Lee Murfee (MMI’s third president), both graduated from the University of Virginia. The sculpture adorned the room of the Jefferson Literary Society in The Chapel here at MMI, the counterpart to the (Benjamin) Franklin Literary Society which also had a room in The Chapel.

Responding to my inquiry, Elizabeth Chew, Curator, Monticello, Thomas Jefferson Foundation in Charlottesville, VA, informed me that our Jefferson bust was done by sculptor Sidney H. Morse (1833-1903), probably around the time of the Centennial of 1876. Obviously, this is not a “life portrait” as Jefferson died in 1826, before Morse was born. The bust was mass-produced and sold through the catalogues of the various companies that produced them. We have a plaster copy.

Here are three images of our Jefferson bust taken by Kelly Griffiths. The first one highlights one of the beautiful pedestals purchased by John L. Hunter, MMI JC 1971, of Hilton Head Island, South Carolina. Thank you, Mr. Hunter!

Sidney Morse also sculpted busts of Ralph Waldo Emerson and Thomas Paine. A New England Transcendentalist like Emerson, Morse was the editor of a periodical called The Radical.

In addition to sending images of our Jefferson bust to the Thomas Jefferson Foundation at Monticello in Virginia, I also sent images of our Lee sculpture to the Museum of the Confederacy in Richmond, VA, and to the Lee Chapel Museum at Washington and Lee University in Lexington, VA. I wanted these venerable institutions to know that these busts were on display in the MMI Archives.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Marion Institute in 1914

This MMI Archives Blog contains only one image – a 1914 Marion Institute letter on school letterhead – but, it speaks volumes as to the organization of the Institute.

Letter to N. Y. Quarles from H. O. Murfee, dated July 6, 1914. (Credit: H. O. Murfee Papers, MMI Archives)

Headed by Hopson Owen Murfee and his brother, Walter Lee Murfee, as president and vice president respectively, both were sons of the founder and first president of Marion Military Institute, James Thomas Murfee, a graduate of Virginia Military Institute. The sons were graduates of the University of Virginia.

Examining the letterhead, coursework at Marion Institute (“Military” had been eliminated from the name during H. O. Murfee’s “American Eton” period) included a commercial (business) program, a regular college academic program for university preparation, and the unique Army-Navy Course preparing students for West Point and Annapolis (the forerunner of our Service Academy Program today - SAP).

From the letters of this period (H. O. Murfee Papers), it appears that a number of students entered MI in the fall specifically to prepare for the West Point (and Annapolis?) examinations in March for entrance to the academies the following academic year.

We talk a lot about the college and former high school programs at MMI, but note that MI in 1914 also included an Elementary Department (ages 8-12) “for Marion children.” The Secondary Department (high school) included ages 12-16, while the College Department enrolled ages 16 to 20. MI had a summer session, and young ladies were admitted, the female boarders staying in “homes of culture.” Music and art were taught by “artists of talent and experience,” the music director at Judson College serving as “Head of Music” during the Summer Session.

In the letter itself – to N. Y. Quarles of R. F. D. (Rural Free Delivery) Akron, Alabama – H. O. Murfee is offering Quarles a position as an Aid in the College, helping him to meet the $50 tuition charges for the summer (also room and board), and allowing him to continue at MI in the fall with advanced standing and with his “preference in the appointments for the fall term.” There’s no rush, but “please come by the next train if you can do so[!]”

Finally, the MI Summer Session was headed by Frank McCutchan of “Washington and Lee and Princeton,” and the regular year College faculty included teachers who prepared at “Princeton, Yale, Chicago, Virginia, and Washington and Lee.”

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Hopson Owen Murfee: A Pictorial Journey

I have written a good deal about the first two presidents of Marion Military Institute – James Thomas Murfee and his son, Hopson Owen Murfee. Another son, Walter Lee Murfee, served as MMI’s third president.

The idea for this MMI Archives Blog is to present a pictorial journey of H. O. Murfee who served MMI until his retirement in 1918 due to ill health. H. O. Murfee, educator, author, humanitarian, and public servant, then embarked upon a second career serving Alabama and the nation in numerous ways until his death in 1942 in Prattville, Alabama, where he and his family moved after leaving Marion. H. O. was married to Mary McQueen Smith Murfee – Queenie – and they were the parents of eight children.

(Note: All images are from the MMI Archives, except for the three images of the Murfee monuments in Prattville, Alabama, which are from Find A Grave. Com.)

The 1900 MMI Football Team with a dapper H. O. Murfee as coach.

H. O. Murfee in 1905, the year he became the second president of MMI following his father’s retirement.

Biographical sketches of the first three MMI presidents, c. 1905.

Walter Lee Murfee, the third president of MMI.

Commemorating Woodrow Wilson’s visit to MMI in 1905. Wilson was then president of Princeton University.

President William Howard Taft’s letter to H. O. Murfee accepting a position on MMI’s new Board of Directors, 1909.

Alabama Governor Bibb Graves’ letter to Albert Einstein referencing H. O. Murfee and inviting Einstein to visit Alabama, 1935.

Notice of Eleanor Roosevelt’s visit and dinner with the Murfees in their country home (McQueen Smith Farms) near Prattville, Alabama, in 1939.

The Murfee Family monument in Oak Hill Cemetery in Prattville, Alabama.

Headstone for H. O. Murfee, Oak Hill Cemetery, Prattville, Alabama.

Headstone for Queenie Murfee, Oak Hill Cemetery, Prattville, Alabama.