Two Fridays ago (4/8), my mother called to tell me she had just talked with a retired journalist, named Jeff Prugh. Apparently Jeff had come across my posts on the Roosevelt Tatum story, and he wanted to talk with me. Between my father's name and the mentions of Delmar, NY in the Tatum series (I called it "From Delmar to Bombingham"), Jeff figured out how to reach my mother.
Jeff called because he had researched this same story, starting three decades ago, interviewing many of the principle figures who were involved, including the likes of Macon Weaver, the US Attorney who drummed up the case against Tatum in the first place. If you haven't followed the links, or read the posts before, Roosevelt Tatum claimed to have witnessed two Birmingham Police officers planting the bombs that destroyed AD and Naomi King's home on the night of May 11, 1963. The Kings and their five children were in the house when the bombs went off and escaped alive only by good luck. After Tatum made his allegations and made several official statements to this effect, he abruptly retracted his testimony and was then prosecuted for false testimony. Tatum was convicted swiftly and sentenced to a year and a day in prison.
Both Jeff and I—as well as Diane McWhorter—have concluded that Tatum was bullied out of his original testimony through a rigged polygraph test, administered by the FBI in Birmingham. Jeff was astonished to find my work in part because until he read this post, he'd made the same mistake that Macon Weaver had in assuming that the Greenberg mentioned in FBI documents was the famous Civil Rights Movement attorney, Jack Greenberg.
When my mother called two Fridays ago, I was lying in bed, trying to recover from a bad cold in time for a job interview on Monday the 11th. I was still under the weather all weekend, and I wanted to use my spare time to prepare for the interview, so I didn't end up calling Jeff back until Tuesday night (4/12).
It was exciting to compare notes with Jeff because we'd reached so many of the same conclusions from our separate research and because we had each learned things that the other hadn't. While Jeff had spoken to many of the people involved—a number of whom are now dead—I had succeeded in getting additional FBI documents on the case declassified. His research led him more deeply into corruption in Alabama regarding Tatum's case; mine had revealed new details about what happened while Tatum was in Washington, DC with my father and AD King (the next part in the Delmar to Bombingham series, still in the works).
Jeff has done some very interesting work on Dan Moore, a federal marshall who tried to expose the rigging of the grand jury that convicted Tatum. In 1999 Jeff published his research in the Marin Independent Journal , the last paper he worked at before he retired (before that Jeff was a LA Times reporter for twenty-one years, including six as Atlanta Bureau Chief). In 2004, he published an expanded version as part of the King family memoir by Alveda King, AD and Naomi's oldest daughter, who was twelve at the time of the bombing. Here's an excerpt from the version in Marin Indpendent Journal:
In June  while Rooselvelt Tatum is being questioned in Washington, Moore becomes incensed when [sic] learns that his boss, U.S. Marshal Peyton Norville, and Judge Allgood participate in selecting the federal grand jury that would indict Tatum.
In sworn testimony, Moore would say that he told a Washington-based official of the U.S. Marshals Service that his boss had bragged to him about putting his son-in-law on the grand jury.
A Justice Department examiner's report in 1964 would say that "...the jury box was one name short. The then Marshal, Mr. Norville, knowing his son-in-law to be a qualified voter, wrote his name on a piece of paper and put into the box. When the Marshal returned to his office he passed this information to the Chief [Moore] in an informal conversation . . . ."
In 1964, Moore would be subpoenaed by an attorney who represented eight white supremacists and who had been tipped about Moore's allegations that U.S. Marshal Norville had told him he had placed his son-in-law on the grand jury. The eight members of the militant National States Rights Party had been indicted by the Tatum grand jury for disrupting efforts to desegregate some of Birmingham's schools.
After the attorney takes Moore's deposition alleging that the grand jury had been improperly impaneled, Moore is called to Judge Allgood's chambers, and, according to Moore, the judge tells him: "You've got me backed against the wall now. What the hell am I supposed to do?
Moore to Judge Allgood: "Throw 'em all out! Dismiss all the indictments [including Tatum's]!
Amid allegations that the grand jury was tainted, the judge drops charges against the whites—publicly citing "fundamental deficiencies" in the indictment—but the judge doesn't let Moore's testimony impugning the grand jury get in the way of the case the feds had built against Roosevelt Tatum.
Dan Moore continues to press for propriety in the federal courthouse in Birmingham. However, he becomes persona non grata. He refuses an offer of a lifetime pension of $3,971 a year ($331 monthly) if he would retire on the spot, after nearly 20 years with the U.S. Marshals Service, and claim what he says would be a bogus disability. He would describe the offer as "a crooked scheme designed to steal public money and to cover up what I knew about obstruction of justice in the Tatum grand jury."
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Earlier the same Tuesday evening that I spoke with Jeff Prugh (4/12), I found a voicemail on my cell phone after I got out of yoga class. The call was from Bob Adamenko, an old friend of my dad's. Back in October, Bob stumbled on Hungry Blues posts from July about Ray Charles and the 1963 concert he played in Birmingham, organized by my father, as a benefit to send Birmingham residents to the March on Washington. In the comments to one post, Bob wrote:
ben, I was a friend of your wondeful father. your mom would rebember me and my wife elaine. please call me at home. after your dad moved up to albany with the family we stayed in touch and eventually lost contact. I was on line doing some research on the liberal party and i came upon hungry blues. please call me any time. I would love to talk to you. Bob Adamenko-[phone # deleted for commentor's privacy] ps. I have the negatives of that show in birminham (emphasis added)
I called Bob immediately, of course, and we had a great, wide ranging conversation—Birmingham, Ray Charles, Nina Simone, Liberal Party, CORE, James Farmer, the Lower East Side . . .
Bob had been in charge of security for the concert and had taken pictures. Bob was emphatic that I should have the negatives. "If anyone should have them, you should. They belong to you . . ."
Until last week, that was the last I'd heard from Bob. But then there he was on my voicemail, saying he'd been in the hospital again but he is doing better now and he needs my address so he can send my the pictures. I called Bob as soon as I got home from class. I couldn't catch everything he told me about the negatives because my son Aaron (who is now two, by the way) was resisting bed time, and exuberantly showing off his command of two word phrases and multi-syllabic words as he climbed into his high chair to join me and Ruth in our ritual, post-yoga class take out.
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Last Friday (4/15), I received some interesting mail: 1 oversized, padded envelope, from Jeff Prugh; 1 9 x 12 manilla envelop, from Bob Adamenko; 1 flat, cardboard mailer, 6 x 8 1/2, from Jonathan David Jackson.
Jeff sent me a copy of Alveda King's book and a photocopy of the Marin Independent Journal article (not archived on the paper's website). Bob sent me several contact sheets from the Birmingham negatives, a contact sheet of negatives of scenes from Washington, DC in 1963, the day before the March on Washington, two large prints, and a letter of recommendation that my dad wrote for him in 1976, while Dad was Secretary to the New York State Tax Commission. Jonathan sent me his new chapbook of poems (also see this post).
I spoke with Bob on Saturday, to tell him his envelope arrived. He told me he's sending the negatives next.
One of the prints from Bob was a press photo (at right) from John Lindsay's first appearance after he won the New York City Mayor's race in 1965. Lindsay was a Liberal Republican, with a capital "L" and a capital "R." That is, he ran in 1965 on a joint Liberal/GOP ticket. In 1965, my father was Assistant to Executive Director and Legislative Representative for the Liberal Party of New York, and he was one of the driving forces behind Lindsay's mayoral campaign. In this victory photo, you can see the Liberal Party banner overhead. In front, from left to right, it's Robert Adamenko, Paul Greenberg, and John Lindsay.
I'm not at all certain, but I think that might be my mother, very partially visible behind Bob's left shoulder, standing next to Dad.
Update 7/9/05: Jonathan David Jackson's website is down; links to it removed for now.