Bull Connor


Bull Connor

Theophilus Eugene "Bull" Connor (July 11 1897, Selma, Alabama – March 10 1973) was a Democratic Politician and police official from the city of Birmingham, Alabama during the American Civil Rights Movement. He was a member of the Ku Klux Klan, and a staunch advocate of racial segregation.

As the Public Safety Commissioner of Birmingham, Alabama, in the 1960s, Connor became a symbol of bigotry. He infamously fought against integration by using fire hoses and police attack dogs against protest marchers. [ [http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/eyesontheprize/story/07_c.html PBS's Eyes on the Prize segment, including video of Connor.] ] The spectacle of this being broadcast on national television served as one of the catalysts for major social and legal change in the South and helped in large measure to assure the passage by the United States Congress of the Civil Rights Act of 1964; thus Connor's tactics dramatically backfired into helping to bring about the very change that he was opposing.

Early career

Connor entered politics in 1934, winning a seat in the Alabama legislature. Connor's vocal skills also served him during a stint as the radio broadcaster for the local minor league baseball team, the Birmingham Barons. That position had developed after he had made a name for himself by using a megaphone to forward telegraph reports of baseball games to Birmingham pool halls.

In 1936, Connor was elected to the office of police commissioner, beginning the first of two stretches that spanned a total of 26 years. Connor's first term ended in 1952, but he resumed the post four years later.

In 1948 Connor's officers arrested U.S. Senator from Idaho, Glen H. Taylor, the running mate of Progressive presidential candidate (and former Democratic Vice President) Henry Wallace. Taylor, who had attempted to speak to the Southern Negro Youth Congress, was arrested for violating Birmingham's segregation laws.

Connor's concerted effort to enforce the law was sparked by the group's reported Communist philosophy, with Connor noting at the time, "There's not enough room in town for Bull and the Commies." During the Democratic National Convention that year, Connor led the Alabama delegation in a walkout when the party included a civil rights plank in its platform.

In 1950, Connor became a Democratic candidate for Governor of Alabama. He announced he would be campaigning on a platform of "protecting employment practices, law enforcement, segregation and other problems that have been historically classified as states' rights by the Democratic party." That bid, along with another attempt in 1954, would fail, but Connor remained a focal point of controversy that year by pushing through a new city ordinance in Birmingham that outlawed Communism.

In late 1951, Connor became embroiled in a feud with city detective Henry Darnell after Connor's wife reportedly saw an incident of police brutality. Connor investigated and charged Darnell with conduct unbecoming an officer. The issues between the two men truly exploded on December 26 when Connor was arrested after having being found in a hotel room with his 34-year-old secretary, Christina Brown, following a Christmas party five days earlier. Claiming he was set up, Connor nonetheless was convicted, fined $100 and given a 180-day sentence. Impeachment proceedings followed soon after, but on June 11, 1952, the conviction was thrown out by the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals. The surrounding controversy led Connor to announce that he would not run again for the city commissioner position.

Civil Rights era

", inspired international support for the demonstrators.cite journal
url=http://digitaljournalist.org/issue0309/lm04.html
title=Birmingham 1963
work=100 Photographs that Changed the World
publisher="Life", reproduced in "The Digital Journalist"
accessdate=2007-12-23
] Image credit: Charles Moore, Black Star"]

After returning to office in 1956, Connor quickly resumed his heavy-handed approach to dealing with perceived threats. One prominent instance came when a meeting at the Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth's house with three Montgomery ministers was raided, with Connor fearing that a spread of the bus boycott that had succeeded in Montgomery was imminent. The ministers were arrested for vagrancy, which did not allow a prisoner bail, nor any visitors during the first three days of their incarceration. A federal investigation followed, but Connor refused to cooperate.

Shuttlesworth had been frequently in danger in the previous two years, having seen his church bombed twice. He, his wife and a white minister were also attacked by a mob after attempting to use white restrooms at the local bus station.

In 1960, Connor was elected Democratic National Committee man for Alabama, soon after filing a lawsuit against the "New York Times" for $1.5 million, for what he said was insinuating that he had promoted racial hatred. Later dropping the amount to $400,000, the case would drag on for six years until Connor lost a $40,000 judgment on appeal. In November 1962, Birmingham voters changed the city's form of government, with the mayor now working with nine councilmen instead of three county commissioners. The move had been in response to the extremely negative perception of the city (which had been derisively nicknamed "Bombingham") among outsiders. The most prominent example of this continuing embarrassment came in 1961 when the president of the city's Chamber of Commerce was visiting Japan, only to see a newspaper photo of a Birmingham bus engulfed in flames.

Endorsed by the Governor of Alabama, George C. Wallace, Connor attempted to run for mayor, but lost on April 2, 1963. Bull and his fellow commissioners then filed suit to block the change in power, but on May 23, the Alabama Supreme Court voted against the lawsuit, ending a 23-year tenure in the post for Connor.

The day after the April election, civil rights leaders, led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., began "Project 'C'" (for "confrontation") in Birmingham against the police tactics used by Connor and his subordinates (and, by extension, other Southern police officials). King's arrest during this period would provide him the opportunity to write his legendary "Letter from Birmingham Jail" The goal of this movement was to cause mass arrests and subsequent inability of the judicial and penal systems to deal with this volume of activity. One key strategy was the use of children to further the cause, a tactic that was criticized on both sides of the issue. The short-term effect only increased the level of violence used by Connor's officers, but in the long term the project proved largely successful, as noted above.

Later career

On June 3, 1964, Connor resumed his place in government when he was elected to the post of Alabama Public Service Commission director. He suffered a stroke on December 7, 1966, that left him confined to a wheel chair for the rest of his life, but was part of history on February 16, 1968, when he was present at the Haleyville, Alabama, police station for the first ever use of 9-1-1 as an emergency telephone number in the United States. Months later, Connor won another term, but was defeated in 1972, putting an end to his long political career.

Another stroke on February 26, 1973, weeks before his death, left him unconscious, and he died in March of that year. ["Eugene 'Bull' Connor Dies at 75", "Associated Press", March 11, 1973] Survivors included his widow, Beara, a daughter, and a brother, King Edward Connor.

Legacy

Connor is still viewed as an unpleasant symbol of segregation. On January 28, 2008, Conservative radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh compared former President Bill Clinton's attacks against presidential candidate Senator Barack Obama to Connor, saying "We have gone from Bull Connor to Bull Clinton." [http://www.rushlimbaugh.com/home/daily/site_012808/content/01125106.member.html.member.html]

Spike Lee's documentary "4 Little Girls" (about a church bombing in Alabama in 1963) includes footage of Connor and interviews with people describing police brutality under his watch.

In one scene in the remake of "The Ladykillers" (directed by the Coen Brothers), a man mentions Connor's police force.

References


* Nunnelley, William A. (1991) "Bull Connor." Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press. ISBN 0817304959

External links

* [http://www.bplonline.org/Archives/connor/BullConnorPhotographs.asp Photographs of Connor] at the Birmingham Public Library
* [http://www.encyclopediaofalabama.org/face/Article.jsp?id=h-1091 Eugene "Bull" Connor article in the Encyclopedia of Alabama]


Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Bull Connor — Theophilus Eugene „Bull“ Connor (* 11. Juli 1897 in Selma, Alabama; † 10. März 1973 in Birmingham, Alabama) war ein US amerikanischer Politiker und Verwaltungsbeamter. Bekannt wurde er hauptsächlich durch seine strikte Durchsetzung der… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Connor — (irisch/anglisiert für „Hundefreund“) ist der Familienname folgender Personen: Alice Connor (* 1990), britische Schauspielerin Ashleigh Connor (1989–2011), australische Fußballspielerin Bull Connor (1897–1973), US amerikanischer Politiker Chris… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Connor — Contents 1 Given name 1.1 Living persons 1.2 Fictional characters …   Wikipedia

  • Eugene Connor — Theophilus Eugene „Bull“ Connor (* 11. Juli 1897 in Selma, Alabama; † 10. März 1973 in Birmingham, Alabama) war ein US amerikanischer Politiker und Verwaltungsbeamter. Bekannt wurde er hauptsächlich durch seine strikte Durchsetzung der… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Theophilus Eugene Connor — Theophilus Eugene „Bull“ Connor (* 11. Juli 1897 in Selma, Alabama; † 10. März 1973 in Birmingham, Alabama) war ein US amerikanischer Politiker und Verwaltungsbeamter. Bekannt wurde er hauptsächlich durch seine strikte Durchsetzung der… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Chris Connor — Background information Birth name Mary Loutsenhizer Born November 8, 1927 Kansas City, Missouri …   Wikipedia

  • Second Battle of Bull Run — (Second Manassas) Part of the American Civil War …   Wikipedia

  • Miles O'Connor — Not to be confused with Myles O Connor. Miles O Connor Personal information Date of birth 20 April 1982 (1982 04 20) (age 29) …   Wikipedia

  • James Connor — James Conner (* 1. September 1829 in Charleston South Carolina; † 26. Juni 1883 in Richmond, Virginia) war ein Generalmajor der Konföderierten im Sezessionskrieg. Conner wurde 1829 als Sohn von Henry W. Conner in Charleston geboren. 1849 beendete …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Birmingham campaign — inspired international support for the demonstrators.cite journal url=http://digitaljournalist.org/issue0309/lm04.html title=Birmingham 1963 work=100 Photographs that Changed the World publisher= Life , reproduced in The Digital Journalist… …   Wikipedia


Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.