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January 30, 1956, Martin Luther King Jr’s Home Bombed In Montgomery, Alabama - Today in Crime History

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On this day, January 30, in the year 1956, the home of Reverend Martin Luther King was bombed in Montgomery, Alabama.  To this day no person has ever been prosecuted for this violent criminal act.

In December of 1955, Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat for a white person on the bus she took on her ride home from work and was arrested.  See blog, This Day In Crime History, December 1, 1955.   

Parks was charged with violating Montgomery’s segregated bus seating law.  Soon afterwards, the Montgomery bus boycott was organized and the “Montgomery Improvement Association” (MIA) came into being.  Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., who was then a preacher at the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, was asked to become the president of the MIA.  King accepted the presidency and soon became the focus of white racists opposed to equal rights for Afro-Americans and the civil rights movement in general.

On January 30, 1956, King was speaking at a meeting that had been organized to support the bus boycott.  While at that meeting, some person or persons planted an explosive device on the front porch of King’s residence.  The bomb exploded, blowing out the windows of the house and causing significant damage to the front porch of the family home.

During the meeting, King heard about the explosion at his residence and was told that his wife and child had not been injured.  King told the crowd in a calm voice what had happened and quickly left.   Nearing his home, King saw a crowd of black men, some brandishing guns and knives, and a multitude of white policemen around his residence.  King rushed inside, pushing through the crowd in his home to the back room, making sure that his wife, Coretta, and ten-week-old daughter had not been injured.

When King returned to the front room of the house, some white journalist were trying to leave to file their reports, but could not get out of the house, which was surrounded by armed, angry supporters of Martin Luther King. Jr..   King walked out onto his damaged front porch and held up his hand for silence.  King spoke in a calm and peaceful voice, telling the crowd that everything was all right and that no one had been injured.  King spoke to the crowd as follows:

Don’t get panicky.  Don’t do anything panicky.  Don’t get your weapons. If you have weapons, take them home.  He who lives by the sword will perish by the sword.  Remember that is what Jesus said.  We are not advocating violence.  We want to love our enemies.  I want you to love our enemies.  Be good to them. This is what we must live by.  We must meet hate with love.

I did not start this boycott.  I was asked by you to serve as your spokesman.  I want it to be known the length and breadth of this land that if I am stopped, this movement will not stop.  If I am stopped, our work will not stop.  For what we are doing is right.  What we are doing is just.  And God is with us.

Upon hearing these words, King’s supporters were calmed and eventually left the area peaceably.  King’s calmness and peaceful demeanor impressed many of the city officials, police and reporters that were gathered at the scene of the bombing.

The bombing inspired the MIA to file a federal law suit the next day directly attacking the Montgomery ordinances establishing bus segregation.  The publicity from the bombing garnered national attention for the boycott and caused many supporters of the movement to become more resolute in their determination to end racial discrimination.

Though some Montgomery city officials expressed outrage over the bombing and a reward was promised for information leading to the arrest of the perpetrator, no person has ever been prosecuted for this crime committed on January 30, 1956.

Sources and more information:

Martin Luther King, Jr: A Biography, by Roger Bruns (Greenwood Publishing Group, 2006)

Martin Luther King, Jr: A Dream of Hope, by Alice Fleming (Sterling Publishing Company, Inc., Feb 5, 2008)

This Day in Civil Rights History, by Williams, Horace Randall and Ben Beard (NewSouth Books 2009)

Parting the waters: America in the King years, 1954-63, by Taylor Branch (Simon and Schuster 1988)

The Nobel Peace Prize 1964, Martin Luther King Jr. Biography, Nobelprize.org

Michael Buchanan is a practicing criminal defense attorney in Gainesville, Florida, with more than 25 years experience defending people accused of criminal misconduct. He is a former president of the Eighth Judicial Circuit chapter of the Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. He is a member of the Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. Read detailed professional biography here.