Selected Excerpts from Book
Chapter 4: Others at the Scene
Excerpt: The Police – Captain John Lee Ray
Captain Ray himself was a native of Mississippi and had grown up in Jackson; he even graduated from Central High School in 1937. Ray joined the Jackson police force in 1941, then quickly joined the navy when the U.S. entered World War II. After serving three years, Ray was honorably discharged and was back on the beat, working in a squad car and eventually covering and getting to know every nook and cranny of the city of Jackson. Known for his hard work and dedication, Ray earned only about a hundred dollars a month and worked twelve-hour shifts, seven days a week. Until serious illness struck in 1965, Ray never missed a day of work. Thanks in large part to that kind of commitment to his job, Ray was put on the fast track to the upper echelon of the force, first making desk sergeant in 1950, then lieutenant two years later. In 1956 he was promoted to captain, a managerial position that oversaw the day-to-day duties of some of the uniformed policemen.
Ray came to national prominence during the Freedom Rides, and it was largely his strategy and leadership that kept the kinds of violent outbursts that occurred in Alabama from happening in Mississippi during this period. Ray’s concept was simple: enforce the law. If Freedom Riders were breaking the law—even if that law was under dispute—arrest them. It was, thus, thanks to John Lee Ray that more than a thousand Freedom Riders, including Joan Trumpauer and George Raymond, ended up in Mississippi jails in 1961. In appreciation for his adept handling of the Freedom Ride situation, the city of Jackson promoted Ray to a newly created position of deputy chief of police. From this position of prominence, Ray would oversee all of the uniformed police on the Jackson force and would also be on hand for nearly every significant demonstration in Jackson during the next six years.
About the Author
It was while visiting the Martin Luther King Center for Social Change in Atlanta, Georgia in 1991 that M. J. O’Brien conceived the work that has become We Shall Not Be Moved. As part of its civil rights display, the King Center showed a photograph of the 1963 Jackson, Mississippi Woolworth’s sit-in—a photograph that has become the image used in history books and magazine articles to show what a sit-in was like. O’Brien was captivated by the photograph because at its center was a woman, Joan (Trumpauer)Mulholland, whom he had known for a number of years.
We Shall Not Be Moved is a labor of love. Primarily created in the late 1990s and finally brought to life through the auspices of the University Press of Mississippi, it is a story of triumph and determination that was captured by the now-iconic Fred Blackwell photograph. Although its publication was delayed (as told in Acknowledgements), timing is everything. The book was supposed to be published in 1999, but for a variety of reasons, it is only reaching a broader public today. And that is as it should be. We are on the cusp of celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Jackson Woolworth’s Sit-In (May 28, 1963) and the courageous souls who decided, one-by-one , to sit in at the counter that day are being recognized for their contribution to the overall civil rights struggle.