The 1966 Macon County Alabama Campaign
(See photos below.)
County, Alabama, was a center of black intellectual life. Home of the
Tuskegee Institute and a Veterans Administration hospital, its population
in the 1960s was 84 percent black, many of whom were educated and middle
class. The Tuskegee Civic Association had been pushing and pulling blacks
onto the voter registration rolls since 1941, despite state laws which
made registration very difficult, with success often subject to the
whims and preferences of the local Board of Registrars.
After the federal Voting Rights Act was passed in July 1965, barriers
to black registration were swept away. The number of African Americans
registered to vote escalated. By the time the Democratic primary election
was held on May 3, 1966 black voters outnumbered white voters in Macon
county. Nonetheless, in Macon as in most other black belt counties,
the number of whites registered to vote outnumbered the white voting
age population residing in the county.
Roughly 75 black candidates ran for public office in the black belt
counties of Alabama that year; several ran in Macon County. The Southern
Christian Leadership Conference sent in staff workers to help those
candidates who made the run-off election on May 31.
Lucius Amerson ran for sheriff. He was 32, a veteran of the Korean War,
and worked in the VA hospital. Amerson won the Democratic nomination
for sheriff with 53 percent of the vote. After the November general
election, he became the first black sheriff since Reconstruction.
Fred Gray ran for one of two seats in the Alabama legislature representing
Macon, Barbour and Bullock Counties. Gray was an attorney who had represented
the plaintiffs in several Alabama civil rights cases, beginning with
the 1955-56 Montgomery bus boycott. Gray lost by 600 votes, not all
of them living, but was elected to the legislature four years later.
The voters of Macon County also elected African Americans as Tax Collector
and County Commissioner.