Last week StoryCorps Griot facilitators set out on historic US Route 80 traveling from Montgomery to Selma, Alabama. Along the way we stopped for two days at the Lowndes County Interpretive Center to set-up a space for Lowndes County residents to share their stories. The Interpretive Center opened in 2006 as the first of three sites established by the National Park Service (NPS) to commemorate, preserve and interpret the events, people, and route of the Selma to Montgomery Voting Rights March of 1965. As stipulated in its mission, the purpose of this Historic Trail is to serve “as a reminder of the right and responsibility of all Americans to participate fully in the election process and the maintenance of vigilance in protecting the right to vote.”
Lowndes County, Alabama gained national attention in the 1960s as a hot bed of Civil Rights activity. However, before the 1960s, violence ravaged the area, leading residents to call it, “Bloody Lowndes.” One such victim was Elmore Bolling. Elmore’s six remaining children visited the Selma to Montgomery National Historic Trail Interpretive Center to share memories of their father.
Elmore Bolling was born on May 10, 1908 to Braxton and Belle Bolling. Unable to attend the first grade until he was thirteen, Bolling was too embarrassed to complete his education and he never learned to read nor write. However, that did not deter his business dreams. In 1931, starting with only a Model T Ford, Elmore steadily built a first-rate trucking company and in time, a thriving general store. Josephine Bolling remembers her father as a successful businessman and philanthropist who gained the respect of his community. “He would walk in the room and everyone would become quiet. That was out of respect.”