Strider (Jim) Benston

SCLC, SNCC, SCOPE, SSOC, 1965-67, Alabama, Arkansas
Current Residence:
13218 North Ranger Road
Parker, CO 80138
Phone: 303-841-5853
Web Site: The Palantir

Freedom to Freedom
Call to Selma, A Review From the Bridge

This is a quickie to start:

Born in Tennessee, grew up in Arkansas. Stumbled into MFDP vigil on boardwalk in Atlantic City, August, 1964. Listened to Mrs. Fannie Lou Hamer, changed my life in 10 minutes. "We Will Never Turn Back." Stokely invited me to Greenville.

Studied all I could find next 4 months. Hitchhiked (walked mostly) to Greenville in freezing rain, January '65. Nobody there, back on road to Selma. First day [in Selma], the children named me "Arkansas," still am. My first assignment was with Mister Christopher Wylie, canvassing Schuler's Alley in Selma. Next day arrested by Wilson Baker. Within a week I had been jailed twice, the latter time for, "Failure to remove himself from a seat which was located in the Dallas County Court Room specifically reserved for white people."

Two days later Malcolm X came to town. Missed him, for was CONVICTED for "Sitting on the white people's side of Dallas County Court Room."

Mike Geison and I were individually beaten by KKK prisoners while the FBI interrogated the other one. Served 7 days.

Tried to work with both SNCC and SCLC. Extremely difficult with the chaos & internal dynamics.

Spent night of Feb 18 at Burwell Infirmary treating injured from Marion [after the march there was attacked and Jimmy Lee Jackson was shot by Alabama State Troopers]. It was [Jimmy's] death which motivated us to organize the March on Montgomery.

We met all day on the 19th and decided to hold a march that night in Selma. When we came down the steps of Brown Chapel, we were met by Sheriff Clark's "Water Posse" on horseback and in pickup trucks just behind Chief Wilson Bakers Selma Police.

Had we not retreated into the church that night there would have been a massacre, possibly setting off a race war in America. The situation was THAT tense.

My head was cracked & my nose broken on "the Bridge" on Bloody Sunday, March 7. Asked, I think by Frank Sorocco, to organize internal security force for March on Montgomery. Did so.

April 6, or so. Led regrouping of March in Camden, Alabama after tear gas assault by police. Beaten and jailed. Jimmy Collier got me out of jail several weeks later, at midnight on my 21st birthday, after they had murdered Jonathan Daniels that afternoon in Haneyville. I began to work again with SNCC in Selma.

My work later that year is documented in the book, If White Kids Die, by Dick J Reavis, Univ of North Texas Press, about the SCOPE project in Demopolis, Alabama. Tried to work with SCOPE. Difficulties. Sent back personally by Dr. King, to Demopolis.

I was singled out and severely beaten by the police for leading a march there, similar to a circumstance in Camden. When the local people bonded me out of jail I was re-arrested and transported at 2:AM by 3 deputy sheriffs, in chains, to Linden. With a gun poking in my ribs and threats to pistol whip me to death around the next curve back in the woods. The deputy, Ernie Lolly had named me personally at a KKK rally of 600 men in Chicasaw State Park near Linden. Lolly bragged that he would kill me. Photo on wire services, Pittsburg Couried, Jet Magazine, NBC news, etc. Got out midnight, 21st birthday. To Freedom House, Selma.

The FBI took me away in chains out of the SNCC office in September, '65. I was transferred in the middle of the night 2 weeks later to Mobile where I was held incommunicado for a month, in Iraq-like conditions. Eventually I got a phone call smuggled out to Stokely Carmichael in Selma, who contacted Bayard Rustin who put pressure on the government to begin to allow me due process of law. If not for that chain of calls I would have died in that cell. Eventually I was brought into US District Coutr & transferred to Arkansas.

Months later in Arkansas after I got out, I faced a lynching in my home town of Malvern, Arkansas. Escaped a lobotomy conspiracy in my home town for having "embarrased them" by my known anti-racism. My father died and I was banned from attending the funeral of my own father. Of course I refused and did attend, but I could not return to Malvern for 25 years.

I returned to Selma and was assigned by Stokely to Eutaw in Greene County, where I worked February & March of '66. Although Stokely was my friend and mentor, I voted for John Lewis in Kingston Springs because I saw SNCC on its deathbed if race became the defining criterion of truth and service to the cause of humanity.

Refused the draft. Trouble in Ft. Smith, Little Rock, Malvern, etc.

After Nashville, May '66, I "floated" with no home and nowhere to go. I organized anti-war groups in Philadelphia and Wisconsin. I eventually settled in Chicago. PL, RSL, other groups. Steward Chicago Truck Drivers Union. Founding president of Concerned Truckers for a Democratic Union, Exec Board for Teamsters for a Democratic Union, 1975+, and many other activities for 20 years.

Organized a large crowd to drive NAZIs out of St. Louis, National Convention, 1978.

Worked at Chicago Bulk Mail Center in Chicago 1976-87. Steward, Mailhandlers Union. Spoke about atrocious conditions in '78. Fired for "instigating a mass work stoppage, & inciting a race riot" because it appeared that the employees, Blacks and Whites, had finally coalesced into an effective unit to adequately press their grievances.... Was terminated because of the fact that as a White minority he joined the Black majority to work together in a cohesive force as co-human beings to seek peaceful, effective means for communication with management about their mutual employment concerns...:

I earned my degrees, Political Science, Master of Humanities in Philosophy & History in the 90's. National EEOC Report Lost 6 years.

I have never strayed from the Path.

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