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About Hayneville, Alabama

Despite its black population, the county had no registered black voters by 1965's spring, after 60 years of Alabama Constitution disenfranchisement. Hayneville and Lowndes were home to civil rights activists who helped organize the residents for voter registration. After the 1965 federal Voting Rights Act was passed in August, activists helped residents register to vote and provided political education. They worked to integrate public buildings and stores. Jonathan Daniels, an Episcopal Seminarian from New Hampshire worked with 29 civil rights protesters on August 13, 1965, to picket white-only stores in Fort Deposit. All the protesters were taken into custody by county police and sent to Hayneville jail. Five minor protesters were released that day. The remaining members of the group were held for six more days. They refused to release anyone unless they were bailed.

The prisoners were released on August 20 without being transported back to Fort Deposit. The group waited near the jail while they waited for their release. Daniels and three other people, a white Catholic priest, and two black women activists went to Varner's Grocery Store to purchase soft drinks. This was one of the few local stores that could serve non-whites. They encountered Tom L. Coleman who was an engineer for the state highway division and an unpaid special county deputy, wielding his shotgun. The man threatened the group and then fired his shotgun at Ruby Sales, 17, Sales was pushed to the ground by Daniels, who caught the full blast from the gun and killed him instantly. Father Richard F. Morrisroe grabbed another protester and fled. Coleman shot Morrisroe and wound him in his lower back. The white resistance to civil rights organizers was not over.

Gregory Orr, an upstate New York student who had traveled to Mississippi in June 1965 to participate in civil rights demonstrations, was returning home from Jackson, the capital. He was taken into custody along with other protesters and kept at the state fairgrounds for ten days without any charges. He was driving through Lowndes County when he was stopped and taken by white vigilantes. He was held in Hayneville jail without charge for eight days. Orr returned to New York in August and read the New York Times report on Jonathan Daniels' murder. He recognized one of his kidnappers in a photograph--apparently Tom Coleman. There have been many other instances of violence against civil rights persons.

Under Stokeley Carmichael's leadership, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, and local residents, civil rights activities continued in Lowndes. These groups were responsible for registering and educating black voters after the 1965 Voting Rights Act was passed. The Lowndes County Freedom Organization was the county's first independent black political party since the Reconstruction era. They also continued to register voters. In 1966, they ran a slate of candidates but were defeated by election fraud in the majority-black County. John Hulett, an African-American chairman at LCFO, was elected county sheriff in 1970.


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