Overcoming Racial Hate with Love
By Gorman Woodfin
The 700 Club
CBN.com Civil rights attorney, Arthur Shores has been called Alabama’s ‘drum major for justice.’ His daughters, Helen Shores Lee and Barbara Shores, have written a book called The Gentle Giant of Dynamite Hill, detailing their father’s work in the civil rights movement. Helen explains the inspiration for the title, “My father was always known for his kindness. He was always very humble and a very soft spoken, gentle man.”
“When he talked, people would listen.” Barbara adds, “He was a great negotiator. He was one who could bring people together at a table and talk things out and work things out for them. So he was gentle, but yet he was a giant in my estimation.”
Arthur Shores first made a name for himself in the 1950’s when he took on a police brutality case and won. By the ‘60’s he was Dr. Martin Luther King, junior’s attorney in Alabama.
Thurgood Marshall, who later became the first African-American Supreme Court Justice, was a frequent visitor in the home. Barbara recalls, “We had a lot of people coming to the house that we’d never realize at that time, that we had a seat right at the first place in history of all the people who were coming through and the cases that he had.”
In 1963 Shores represented Vivian Malone and David Hood in a court case against the University of Alabama. Barbara describes the situation, “That was when Wallace made his famous stand in the schoolhouse door and was asked to step aside. But because of the efforts and everything, they were enrolled at the University. And I think that was one of the high points of his career.”
And along with these cases came threats against him and his family. Barbara shares about the unsettling times, “We would get the threatening phone calls and threatening letters. One thing that I remember my father always doing, he was a very spiritual man, and would always go in and pray.”
Their neighborhood became known as Dynamite Hill. Barbara explains, “It got the name because there were zoning laws in the early 30’s and 40’s where blacks could only live on the east side of Center Street, and not the west side.”
But for the blacks who tried to move into homes on the ‘whites only’ side of the street, Barbara says, “Usually before they got ready to move into the house, the house was either bombed or they wouldn’t get a certificate of occupancy to move into the house after they spent money to build the home there.”
Helen adds, “That happened to 50 or more houses in this area. So it got the name Dynamite Hill because the houses that were bombed were all in and around and straight up this hill.”
The Shores’ home was hit twice. Barbara, who still lives in their childhood home, remembers seeing her house after the first bombing. “Once we got to the house, we saw one end of the house really just blown up, the garage doors were gone. Every window in that house was blown out. And when we came in, we saw that my father was okay. And I went running out in the backyard, and found a neighbor who was covering something up. And it happened to be my favorite dog that was killed in the bombing.”
Barbara told her father she hated the people that had killed their dog. “He said, ‘Barbara, we need to pray. You need to ask God for forgiveness.’ And I’ll never forget him saying that if I held onto the hate, it would destroy me and I didn’t want that to happen. He said, ‘You have to let it go.’ And I did.”
A week and a half later, their home was bombed again. “We were all here, my mother, my father and myself. And when the bomb went off, we had always been taught that if a bomb or anybody shoots in the house, to hit the floor. And so I was crawling from the kitchen to the living room where my father was, and I saw that he was okay. I ran into my mother’s room and found my mother unconscious.”
Her mother was hospitalized but made a full recovery. However, those memories still haunt Barbara. “Those are memories that will always stay with me. For the longest, I could almost close my eyes and could smell the scent of the dynamite.”
Barbara has had a successful career in social work. Helen followed in her father’s footsteps and got a law degree. She now serves as a Circuit Court Judge in the Tenth Judicial District of Alabama.
Helen says her father served as a role model for her and many other young African-Americans. “I’m proud that he had the courage and the fortitude to take on civil rights cases long before we heard of civil rights in the 60’s. Even in the midst of threats to his life, even in the midst of threats to his family, he continued to take on voting rights cases, cases that would lead to the equalization of teachers’ salaries and desegregation of schools.”
They say that their father’s spiritual strength was what kept him going in his fight for justice. Helen remembers, “His faith was unwavering. For as long and as far back as I can remember, my father modeled for us his faithfulness. Everything that happened like the bombings, he never lost his faith and his belief that God would bring him and his family through all of this.”
CBN IS HERE FOR YOU!
Are you seeking answers in life? Are you hurting?
Are you facing a difficult situation?
A caring friend will be there to pray with you in your time of need.