James F. Blake


James F. Blake

James F. Blake (April 14, 1912 – March 21, 2002) was the bus driver whom Rosa Parks defied in 1955, prompting the Montgomery Bus Boycott.Blake served in the Army in the European theatre during World War II. He worked as a bus driver for Montgomery City Bus Lines until 1974. ["Bus driver who gave her the wrong ticket then had had Parks arrested dies at 89", "Sun Herald", March 24, 2002]

Blake used his discretion to set stringent rules on the bus he drove. One day in 1943, Parks boarded his bus and paid the fare. She then moved to her seat but Blake told her to follow his rules and enter the bus again from the back door. Parks exited the bus, but before she could re-board at the rear door, Blake drove off, leaving her to walk home in the rain. ["Rosa Parks / 1913-2005", "Los Angeles Times", October 25, 2005]

On December 1, 1955 they encountered each other again when Blake ordered Rosa Parks and three other blacks to move from the middle to the back of his Cleveland Avenue bus (number 2857) in order to make room for a white passenger. By Parks' account, Blake said, "Y'all better make it light on yourselves and let me have those seats." When she refused, Blake contacted the police and signed the warrant for her arrest (Chapter 6, Section II of the city code gave drivers police powers to racially assign seats ["City charge faced by negro bus rider", "Montgomery Advertiser", December 2, 1955] ). This arrest sparked the Montgomery Bus Boycott and led to "Browder v. Gayle", the 1956 court case on the basis of which the United States Supreme Court abolished segregation in transportation.

Commenting on the event afterwards, Blake stated, "I wasn't trying to do anything to that Parks woman except do my job. She was in violation of the city codes, so what was I supposed to do? That dang bus was full and she wouldn't move back. I had my orders." [ [http://www.guardian.co.uk/obituaries/story/0,3604,674634,00.html "Obituary: James F Blake"] , The Guardian, 27 March 2002]

Blake continued working at the bus company for another 19 years. He died of a heart attack in his Montgomery home in 2002.

Notes and references

External links

* [http://www.alasu.edu/asutoday/archives_detail.aspx?id=478 "One Man Sparked The Montgomery Bus Boycott"] , ASU Today Online


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