This photo of Jim Peck, one of the organizers of the Freedom Rides, was taken after the KKK attack in Montgomery.

Saturday, May 20th 1961 Montgomery Greyhound Bus terminal

MONTGOMERY, AL — This is the scene where John Seigenthaler expected to arrive at the Montgomery Greyhound Bus terminal and find the area crawling with police. He was representing RFK’s Department of Justice and negotiating a guarantee of safe passage with AL Gov. John Patterson.  Instead, he found the bus had arrived earlier than he had expected. The scene looked quiet at first. Only a few people, taxi drivers, and newspaper reporters, were around.  But, there was also NO law enforcement visible as Seigenthaler had been promised by Patterson that there would be to protect the Riders. In actual fact, 200 protesters were hiding in the terminal armed with lead pipes and baseball bats. There were also news reporters from Life, NBC and Time, who were about to become victims of a racial attack. Hundreds of men, women and children descended on the Freedom Riders as they stepped off the bus. The mob began attacking the Riders with hoes and rakes, bricks and chains.  A mêlée broke out on the bus platform dock. Two white women riders, Susan Wilbur and Susan Hermann, piled into a waiting cab and ordered the driver to go to Aberthahy’s First Baptist Church. Suddenly, the mob dragged Susan Wilber and Susan Hermann out of the cab and started beating them.

The John Seigenthaler (seated) with Rip Patton at the Seigenthaler Center for First Ammendment Rights in Nashville.

Seigenthaler arrived in his car on the scene just in time to see a 15-year-old boy pummeling Susan Wilber. Seigenthaler drove his car up onto the sidewalk, and pulled Wilber to her feet and ordered her into the car. Wilber didn’t know who he was so sh

e refused to get in. Just then, two roughnecks appeared and demanded to know who Seigenthaler was. When he identified himself as a federal agent, they hit him over the head with a lead pipe and he was knocked unconscious. Seigenthaler lay unconscious on the sidewalk for 25 minutes as the crowd kicked him repeatedly.