Washington, D.C. (JFK+50) President John F. Kennedy spoke to the nation on radio and television 51 years ago this evening, May 12, 1963, on the violence and unrest taking place in the city of Birmingham, Alabama.
The address, which began at 9 p.m. Washington time, followed the bombings of the home of Reverend A.D. King* and the A.G. Gaston Motel where Martin Luther King, Jr. and members of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference were lodging.
May 14, 1963
*A.D. King (1930-1969), the younger brother of ML King Jr, was born in Atlanta and graduated from Morehouse College. He pastored at Mt. Vernon 1st Baptist Church in Newnan, GA and was pastor of the 1st Baptist of Ensley in Birmingham, Alabama in 1963.
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Those events of the previous evening had been followed, according to the President, by "rioting, personal injuries and property damage."
"This Government will do whatever must be done to preserve order, to protect the lives of its citizens, and to uphold the law of the land."
The President also acknowledged the "peaceful, constructive settlement," known as the BIRMINGHAM AGREEMENT which had been accomplished the week prior to the unrest.
JFK made it clear that...
"the Federal Government will NOT permit it to be sabotaged by a few extremists on either side."
President Kennedy concluded his remarks by saying that he would be sending Assistant Attorney General BURKE MARSHALL**, along with other Justice Department officials, to consult with local citizens of Birmingham.
JFK also said that he would ask Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara to alert the Armed Forces trained in riot control to be on the ready.
The President promised to direct the ALABAMA NATIONAL GUARD to be ready for deployment in Birmingham if needed.
**Burke Marshall (1922-2003) was born in Plainfield, NJ and earned his BA and LLD at Yale University.
He served as Assistant Attorney General from 1961 to 1964 and also headed the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department.
Mr. Marshall died in Newtown, Connecticut at the age of 80.