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The 1966 Macon County Alabama Campaign

(See photos below.) James Meredith March Button

Macon County, Alabama, was a center of black intellectual life. Home of the Tuskegee Institute and a Veterans Administration hospital, its population in the 1960s was 84 percent black, many of whom were educated and middle class. The Tuskegee Civic Association had been pushing and pulling blacks onto the voter registration rolls since 1941, despite state laws which made registration very difficult, with success often subject to the whims and preferences of the local Board of Registrars.
After the federal Voting Rights Act was passed in July 1965, barriers to black registration were swept away. The number of African Americans registered to vote escalated. By the time the Democratic primary election was held on May 3, 1966 black voters outnumbered white voters in Macon county. Nonetheless, in Macon as in most other black belt counties, the number of whites registered to vote outnumbered the white voting age population residing in the county.
Roughly 75 black candidates ran for public office in the black belt counties of Alabama that year; several ran in Macon County. The Southern Christian Leadership Conference sent in staff workers to help those candidates who made the run-off election on May 31.
Lucius Amerson ran for sheriff. He was 32, a veteran of the Korean War, and worked in the VA hospital. Amerson won the Democratic nomination for sheriff with 53 percent of the vote. After the November general election, he became the first black sheriff since Reconstruction.
Fred Gray ran for one of two seats in the Alabama legislature representing Macon, Barbour and Bullock Counties. Gray was an attorney who had represented the plaintiffs in several Alabama civil rights cases, beginning with the 1955-56 Montgomery bus boycott. Gray lost by 600 votes, not all of them living, but was elected to the legislature four years later.
The voters of Macon County also elected African Americans as Tax Collector and County Commissioner.

Photos of the 1966 Macon County Alabama Campaign
by Jo Freeman

Please click on thumbnails to view the complete image

Macon County Photo
 
Macon County Photo

Stoney Cooks and Mark Harrington of SCLC work with the Gray campaign. Lacking an official campaign button, workers wore a plain silver grey button.

 

SCLC staff and Tuskegee Institute students organize a voter's list.

     
Macon County Photo

Macon County Photo

Lucius Amerson campaigns for Sheriff of Macon County.

     
Macon County Photo   Macon County Photo

Tuskegee students campaign for Amerson and Gray.

     
Macon County Photo   Macon County Photo

Rural Macon County.

     
Macon County Photo   Macon County Photo

Old and young talk about the primary election.

     
Macon County Photo   Macon County Photo

Macon County voters

     
Macon County Photo

Two black farmers watch the campaign workers go by.

 

     


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