Trip to Montgomery Alabama – Birthplaces of the Confederacy and the Civil Rights Movement

In view is the capital building of Montgomery Alabama where a vote was taken by a group of states to secede from the Union, forming a new government. On the right two blocks from the capital, below the white stairwell, is a locked door leading into what I understood to be the church office area of Dr. Martin Luther King JR – Beginning at the age of 25 he pastored just one church, and this is the one. By age 39, he would die for a cause.

Within my last post I mentioned I might violate an RVer rule whereby to preserve the peace we do not talk about controversial issues. This has been a most difficult post to write because it requires restraining my opinion which I admit has been influenced through our travels from state to state. This has required much reflection on my life’s experience, and frankly in light of recent national events is upsetting to think about long enough to write about. After much thought I decided to write this wordy statement:

Wouldn’t it be nice if everyone followed the rules! Some decide that violence is a better solution. I think because some violent rule breakers, and some that support them directly or indirectly, believe chaos will force a community into changing the ethical, moral or legal standards of a nation. Chaotic behavior is unpredictable and appears to be random – but it’s not.

I love our country. Next to family and God, my country is all I have. Anything that affects my country is very personal. Just as I’m sure it is for others who are reading this text. The United States is the finest nation ever formed in the history of mankind and with the support of God and our diversified people will remain so. As designed, our system of government is molded from our national experiences as well as what worked and what did not work in nations before us. We are a young nation where its founders were smart enough to know the Constitution was just the beginning, that it required a process to amend its laws. Reaching our full potential as a nation has yet to happen, but it will. We have a roadmap. Progress has been slow but deliberate. Many have suffered along the way; history reminds us of this. I love my country and being an American comes first before any argument between the left or the right.

Jump to the bottom of the post if you are just interested in RV tips, in this case regarding staying at cabins within RV parks as an alternative form of travel.

Our visit to Montgomery was not a pilgrimage. There was a lot to see in the area and worth a longer stop as we were heading through town. We had a chance to visit Hank Williams along with the Tuskegee Airfield and downtown Montgomery.

Now on to Montgomery

Montgomery Alabama history reveals two dramatic events along our nations path to becoming what we are today. Montgomery is the birthplace of the confederacy and civil rights.

Our approach to Montgomery was over much of the same road where in March of 1965, Martin Luther King led thousands of nonviolent demonstrators to the steps of the capital in Montgomery, Alabama, after a 5-day, 54-mile march from Selma, Alabama. These Americans marched for what is a basic right to vote. A right guaranteed through amendment to our Constitution but interfered with. The first attempt was bloody. Later the Federal government provided protection as the march was finally completed. There are monuments and a visitors center today for those interested in understanding the march.

While in Montgomery we setup camp at Gunter Hill Corp. of Engineer Park. This is an amazing campground especially the Catoma Loop where there is not a bad spot for big rigs. We booked one near the Alabama River for nine nights. We should have stayed for the two-week limit.

Gunter Hill COE Campground (Catoma Loop), Montgomery Alabama. It’s about a 20-minute drive to the city from here. Full hookups on a long concrete pad. Easy maneuvering on the interior roads. Wonderful laundry room. Half off with the America the Beautiful Pass.
Finally found a small Christmas tree for the RV!

One Approach to Changing a System – War!

I’d have to summarize a dozen prior posts to reflect on what we have learned during our travels regarding the American Civil War. For me, the most dramatic are the graves. Oh my god, the bodies lying shoulder to shoulder in graves at Andersonville Prison in Georgia. I’ll never forget that. I still feel I could have done more to find the history of the two young soldiers, one from Andersonville and another from the Shiloh Tennessee battlefield, where I took a photo of their tombstones wanting to know who they and their family were. I discovered these young men had no history, or at least not enough to be remembered even within published US census records.

January 11, 1961, an ordinance of secession withdrew Alabama from the “Union of Sovereign States” inside the senate chamber of the Alabama State Capital building. The first President of the Confederacy was Jefferson Davis of Mississippi. He was sworn in on the footsteps of the capital. His statue remains to this day at the building. Montgomery was the first capital of the Confederacy before it relocated to Richmond Virginia. The first white house of the Confederacy is located in downtown Montgomery.

This is Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederate State of America outside the capital building in Montgomery. We have visited the site of his capture by the Union army after the war as well. I’m of the opinion statues should stand until citizens of the community decide otherwise through proper legal action. Then they should be preserved for historical value. Those that deface monuments should be charged with crimes. Thirty yards away is another monument recognizing a visit to Montgomery by Marquis de La Fayette (we call him Lafayette) to the city after the revolutionary war. Surrounding the drive to the capital building is a modern flag of every state in the Union. These folks in Montgomery are telling a story if one listens.
Preserved State Senate Chambers in Montgomery where the Confederate States were formed.
First White House of the Confederacy. Lots of sites to visit within walking distance of downtown where parking is cheap and available. Take your bike for even more access.
This one will throw a few curves in someone’s game. This is on display within the same room where the Confederate States were established. This is a list of black representatives that served in the Alabama House of Representatives after the Civil War. Wow, lots of names on this plaque. So good they had a role in reformation of the south. Today 80% of Montgomery population is black. Where I lived and went to school in Missouri most are white like me. It’s not uncommon to stay within large communities of black Americans when visiting the deep south. We have met so many good people of all races, often just standing in line at the grocery store or laundromat talking about whatever. Sometimes we are the only white folks in the building. No worries, people are people, and everyone likes to pet our dog, Wyatt.

Well, I hope our country learned a civil war is not the answer to over-throwing a government? Glad 10 million or more did not die like during the Russian Revolution that came afterwards. Study the history, our country may be young, but our system of government is not when comparing to what has happened around the world that led to other current governments. I still consider myself under oath to protect our Constitution. An oath we all for sure take before joining the military and as civilian law enforcement. My father once told me he recalled when the word God was added to the Pledge of Allegiance in the 1950’s. I looked into the history of the Pledge which was fascinating. On June 14, 1954, President Eisenhower signed a joint resolution of Congress adding the words “under God” to the Pledge.

The war ended with some still thinking the law of the land was wrong and their cause was important enough that they should resist change. This goes on for years leading to the civil rights movement of the 1950’s and 60’s. I’ve just unfairly described 100 years of complicated American history in two sentences for the sake of moving on to the next chapter relative to the civil rights movement.

Montgomery – Birthplace of the Civil Rights Movement

Two people come to mind when thinking about the definition of leadership. They think out ahead of the rest of us, sometimes taking us down roads we don’t want to travel. But they know where we as a nation need to go and prod us along usually at great expense to themselves. Two gave their lives in service to our nation and in my humble opinion are the definition of leadership.

I appreciate President Kennedy when during his ignoration speech of 1961 he told the world what he believed. He says, “let both sides unite to heed in all corners of the earth the command of Isaiah — to “undo the heavy burdens – and to let the oppressed go free. The world is very different now. For man holds in his mortal hands the power to abolish all forms of human poverty and all forms of human life. And yet the same revolutionary beliefs for which our forebears fought are still at issue around the globe — the belief that the rights of man come not from the generosity of the state, but from the hand of God. And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country. My fellow citizens of the world – ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man.” President Johnson later signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which outlawed discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin, required equal access to public places and employment, and enforced desegregation of schools and the right to vote. Discrimination did not end but now there was specific law to enforce. This is progress and it continues today, perhaps too slowly, but that is the nature of things when opposing forces bang heads.

I appreciate Dr. Martin Luther King JR. and what he said during a 1963 speech in Washington before 250,000 peaceful Americans, black and white. He says, “in a sense we’ve come to our nation’s capital to cash a check. When the architects of our Republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men—yes, black men as well as white men—would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. I say to you today, my friends, though, even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream. I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up, live out the true meaning of its creed: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal. I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

Months ago, I downloaded a readable version of the Federalist Papers. Wow, it’s like War and Peace and Atlis Shrugged jammed into one book and written in early English dialect. I’m gaining an appreciation for what colonial America leaders went through just to get most of the states to ratify the Constitution, in 1788 or about five years after the Revolutionary War. The Federalist Papers are a group of articles published to gain support from the public to vote the Constitution into law. I’ve not made it all the way through the Papers but am finding enlightening history such as the notion slaves are property as well as people.

Fast forward – in slow motion- to 1956 when lawsuits were entered because of segregation on public buses. Rosa Parks was 42 years of age when in Montgomery she refused to give up a seat assigned to black passengers, to a white passenger because the white seats were full. There is a museum in town to include the bus. She was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal in 1999. Before her refusal to move from her seat on the bus others had been arrested to include a 14-year-old child. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was pressed into service to organize a bus boycott which resulted in change and most likely began the modern civil rights movement that goes on today.

We missed the Rosa Parks Museum and Selma to Montgomery National Historic Trail. Due to Covid inside the Civil Rights Memorial was closed. We wrapped up our stay at two more area attractions.

Dr. King’s church down the street from Capital.

Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site

Tuskegee Alabama is maybe 30 miles east of Montgomery. We tried to stop at the Tuskegee Airfield last year but the federal government had it closed down due to Covid. This year the grounds were open but not the aircraft hangers and museum other than on specific days of the week. No worries, there is a paved walking trail with stops along the way where signage tells the reader about the heroic all black fighter squadron of World War 2. I’ve known about the Tuskegee Airmen since I watched the movie years ago. It’s impressive they never lost a bomber while escorting them to include into Germany. The recruits that flew were well educated self-made men. Nearby the airfield is Tuskegee Institute National Monument where the graves of alumni Booker T. Washington and George Washington Carver are located. The campus was shut down due to Covid. I’m glad in the past recent years there has been more attention paid to funding black colleges that produce men and women of this caliber.

After the war and even today past members of the Tuskegee Airmen travel around giving talks about success. Many went on to great careers in the US Military. One story is when First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt visited the field when training was being conducted. She demanded a plane ride and received it from a black pilot. She then asked the base commander why these men were not in Europe fighting the war. She went back to Washington and told the President what she knew. The Tuskegee Airman promptly left for the war. At first they were shunned by white pilots until their heroic efforts to guard bombers was discovered. Thereafter they were requested by bomber crews to escort them flying the state-of-the-art Mustang fighters.

View from outside into the stairs leading to the control tower. The airfield is still under use with the museum and grounds sitting off to the side with the original buildings.

Hank Williams Grave – Oakwood Cemetery Annex in Montgomery

Oakwood Cemetery is huge. If one does not find the Hank Williams loop and end up in the old cemetery you will find the roads to be tight and have to drive over to Hank’s grave. Frankly, the graveside is a bit overdone, maybe even gaudy. More impressive for me were the well-manicured graves of around 90 foreign pilots who died while in training at Montgomery’s Maxwell Airforce Base during World War 2.

Confederate soldiers that died in the hospital.
Huge cemetery. Hank’s grave is on the hill in the background. There is a well-marked circle drive off the main road leading to it where you can park.
Here is Hank! – On the right.
Foreign pilots killed in training at Maxwell Airforce Base in Montgomery during WW2

Warning – Personal Opinion Ahead

I have to add a comment in support of my brothers and sisters who are still on the job as police officers. The memorial in Kansas City Missouri honoring officers who gave their lives in service to the community was vandalized during a “peaceful” protest. This is an insult to those that serve our neighborhoods at great risk. This is an insult to the community itself who hire the officers to protect them. I’m retired so I can say what I want. Others on the job cannot. This has been on my mind for well over a year. If someone does not support law enforcement, they should get a T-Shirt that says so. And hang a sign on their house as well. We are way under-staffed and would certainly be willing to take someone off the list who does not want our help. There, I’ve said it in a public forum even if I’ll bet everyone agrees that reads this.

We have not seen the last of this. The more recent civil rights movement activity was laced with more than just being black. Others want to be recognized who are also protected by civil right legislation. Others still want to fundamentally change how our government works or popular opinion involving ethics and morality. Some who view criminal behavior as normal will continue to weaken punishments. Those committing minor crimes will once again grow into committing larger ones. But behind the scenes there will be needed changes that as usual will come around slow and deliberate.

RV Tip – Rent a Cabin if You Want to Get to Know the RV Community and Don’t have a Rig Yet.

Maybe because we once camped so much in tents along a trail or spent whatever weekends we could parked in an RV nearby home is the reason I never knew one can rent cabins inside RV parks in tourist areas rather than a stale hotel room.

Until we started traveling fulltime in an RV I had no idea there were cabins to rent inside wonderful parks. Karen and I have often visited with folks renting the cabins, some who were interested in the RV lifestyle. On one occasion in Buffalo Wyoming we met a family with a small RV parked next to a rented cabin. Their truck had broken down and was in the shop. The parents enjoyed time alone in the RV with the kids camping nearby in a furnished cabin. If you consider the cost of owning and hauling an RV, to include the depreciation, cabins certainly are a good deal. Wish I knew about cabins at RV parks when traveling by car across country. Below are a few photos I took when Karen and I were considering building a cabin to “go home to” when not traveling in an RV.

These are about a mile out of Custer State Park in South Dakota. RV’s, horse camper/trailers and cabins all in one park.
Northern Florida – yup, has an air conditioner which is a must to ask about when booking.
Central Mississippi. Two story! Had the best lake spots compared to us RV campers. Our favorite…
For just $11 more a night one can rent a furnished cabin compared to an RV spot. Bring your own bedding.
A final tip, someone left this behind at a spot we camped in. We use a rubber sewer connector at times to hold the hose connection inside the sewer hole. Someone filled a gallon zip lock bag with nearby gravel which is used to hold down the sewer connection when the sewer pipe has no threads. Neighbor across the street also says get a box of large puppy pads that are used in dog training. When they use the public showers, they place one on the floor to stand on as they exit the shower.

We are currently parked in St. Augustine Florida for two months. 81 degrees at the beach on 1/2/22

8 thoughts on “Trip to Montgomery Alabama – Birthplaces of the Confederacy and the Civil Rights Movement

    • I know you are following Dee. I read yours as well every time. I appreciated reading about your journey and how you guys handled things and the decisions you made. I keep following for the same reason after you came off the road, moved from Florida and Jim’s passing.

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  1. Looooove this post!!!! I literally got chills reading it!!! It was like a great history book I didn’t want to put down. I have always said that you were my hero. Thank you for saying the tough stuff with so much grace. So jealous of your beach weather and view of the ocean. St Augustine is one of my favorite places.
    Love you!!

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    • Thanks sis… I really don’t know what the country will look like in the end. I wonder if it would be different if viewed in the eyes of God. To walk in the same steps as those in Montgomery was important for my own maturity. I was happy to find much of the history had already been taught to me.

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