At a packed public hearing on 25 October, DeKalb County judge J. Oscar Mitchell declared King’s involvement in the Rich’s sit-in a violation of his probation and sentenced him to four months hard labor at the Georgia State Prison in Reidsville. An SCLC press release issued the following day reported that Mitchell’s decision “struck the hundreds of King supporters like a bombshell. Mrs. King wept quietly, Dr. King, Sr. was visibly moved; many of the coeds of the Atlanta University system burst into tears. Faces that reflected shock and horror were innumerable.”1 Following sentencing, SNCC officers Marion Barry and Edward King sent this note of support.2 It is not likely that this wire, sent at 12:34 A.M. on the 26th, reached King before he was moved a few hours later from DeKalb County jail to the state prison; a handwritten note on the telegram reads “Not there.”
dr marting luther king jr
dekalb county jail dekalb county ga
the student non violent coordinating committee, speaking for students all over america, reaches across the bars of the dekalb county jail, in thanks to you for your deep commitment to the concept of no violence, and your vision of a free society which makes possible this student movement. you sat in with us, you went to jail with us, we want you to know that the fight will not end for we have taken up the torch for freedom, we will not forget that you are behind iron bars. we ask that you remember us as we try to remove the bars that exist in the hearts of men. yours in the cause for freedom
the student non violent coordinating committee marion s barry jr—chairman—edward biking jr—administrative secretary.
1. Roy Wilkins, also present in the courtroom, predicted that the verdict would “be felt all over the country as a persecution rather than a satisfaction of a violation of a traffic rule” (“King Given 4 Months Hard Labor,” Montgomery Advertiser, 26 October 1960).
2. Marion Shepilov Barry, Jr. (1936-), born in Itta Bena, Mississippi, received a B.A. (1958) from Le Moyne College and an M.S. (1960) from Fisk University. At Le Moyne Barry became active in the NAACP and at Fisk participated in the Nashville sit-ins. He was elected SNCC’s first chairman in April 1960 but resigned the following November to focus on academics. Barry left a doctoral program in 1964 to return to SNCC’s staff. Two years later he founded the Free D.C. Movement and organized a boycott of the city’s public transportation. In 1974, Barry was elected to D.C.’s first city council and served as mayor (1979-1991). After serving six months in prison on drug charges, he was reelected in 1994 and served as mayor until 1999. Edward Biking King, Jr. (1939-1982), born in Roanoke, Virginia, was a Kentucky State College student when he was elected SNCC historian at the group’s founding in April 1960; he later served as SNCC’s first administrative secretary. King was expelled from Kentucky State in the spring of 1960 for his protest activities. He resigned from SNCC in September 1961 to attend Wilberforce University, where he obtained a B.S. (1963) in education. He later became a business executive and served as associate director of the Association of American Publishers’ Office of Minority Manpower.
MLKJP, GAMK, Martin Luther King, Jr. Papers (Sereies I-IV), Martin Luther King, Jr., Center for Nonviolent Social Change, Inc., Atlanta, Ga., Vault Box 5, folder 8.