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By Thomas Flemming

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This diesel-powered bus was simply Type TDH 3610-1132, patterned after the 1936-production short model, with seats for only thirty-six people. It was twenty-nine feet long, nine feet high, and eight feet wide. In Montgomery the bus traveled the Cloverdale route. It followed a circular pattern from Court Square Fountain in the middle of downtown, where the area’s original two communities—Alabama Town and New Philadelphia—had grown together at an artesian well in 1819 to form the city named BEFORE THE BEGINNING [ 5 ] for General Richard Montgomery, a native New Yorker who became a Revolutionary War hero when he was killed in the battle of Quebec.

I’m a fighter,” Nixon said years later, while sitting in the shade of a scuppernong arbor during a lazy afternoon at the country place of his friends, Clifford and Virginia Durr. “I always have been. I don’t think I ever hurt nobody. Not seriously, anyway. Out there where nobody has much of anything, some big men think they can take anything they want from you. It’s a hard life. You’ve got to defend yourself and what’s yours. I got beaten up sometimes when I was a boy trying to make my way. But nobody ever took nothing from me that was mine, that I didn’t want ’em to take.

I was born in December 1953, three years after this incident that was kept quiet and two years before the incident that would rock a nation and awaken the world to the horrible reality of forced segregation. I was raised by a mother who lived by old virtues and without prejudices. She made me realize that black people in the South had lived under laws of segregation that persecuted them as a people simply because they were a different color. My father was primarily a skeptic. He never protested against anything, as far as I know, and he did not encourage the [ 16 ] THE THUNDER OF ANGELS behavior.

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