In March of 1965, Morris Dees and Millard Fuller took part in their
first Civil Rights event. Martin Luther King Jr. was going to lead a
march from Selma to Montgomery as a show of support for the Voting Rights
Act of 1965. Millard and Morris volunteered to drive some people over
to Selma. They weren't going to participate in the march, just drive
some people over to Selma. They didn't think it was a big righteous
thing to do.
Two weeks earlier, people had tried to march from Selma to Montgomery.
But governor George Wallace planned with state troopers to have the
demonstrators beaten. Dr. King responded furiously by getting a court
order to allow the march and to force the troopers to protect the marchers,
not beat them.
Morris knew some of the troopers there. George Wallace had made Annie
Ruth Dees a Justice of the Peace. Troopers were always at his mom's
house and they were usually friendly to them. Today he got the nodding
and shaking of the heads that he had seen before.
At the gathering a man stood up and asked the audience to pray. Morris
had already started to doubt the church's role more and more in terms
of getting justice and equality for all. Millard knelt and pray immediately
as did everyone else. But Morris remained standing.
"Looking around, I saw a thousand black and white men, women, and
children on the ground, and scores of policemen and troopers, some plainclothes,
some in full dress, standing. Police vans ringed the square. More troopers
stood on the vans, some armed with guns, some armed with cameras. My
heart beat with those in prayer, not in a state of war. I knelt, too."