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Ralph Wyckoff Libel Suit Legal Files

Identifier: MSS-3636

Scope and Contents

On April 12, 1960 The New York Times published an article by Harrison Salisbury entitled "Fear and Hatred Grip Birmingham." Subsequently, the New York Times was sued for libel. Ralph W. G. Wyckoff, Jr., was hired by the law firm defending the New York Times. These files were found by Mrs. Wyckoff in her husband's effects.

The collection contains: (1) A copy of the article that appeared in the New York Times; (2) A four page typed "Memorandum of Harrison Salisbury's Article on Birmingham" that appears to be a document summarizing the fact finding done by the defense investigator's; (3) Two legal documents dealing with the court case; and (4) Forty seven typed noted cards which contain information such as (a) Alphabetical listings of bombings in Birmingham; (b) Information on the buildings bombed including the address, the date of the bombing, the name(s) of the persons charged in the bombings and the legal results of the case; and (c) Names and specifics concerning people arrested during sit-ins and other acts of civil disobedience in Birmingham in the early 1960's.


  • 1960 - 1964


Conditions Governing Access

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Conditions Governing Use

Researchers are responsible for using the materials in conformance with United States copyright law as well as any donor restrictions accompanying the materials. The user assumes all responsibility for identifying and satisfying any copyright claimants in collection materials. Copyright for official University records is held by The University of Alabama. The library claims only physical ownership of many manuscript collections. Anyone wishing to broadcast or publish this material must assume all responsibility for identifying and satisfying any claimants of literary property rights or copyrights. Please contact Special Collections ( with questions regarding specific manuscript collections. For more information about copyright policy, please visit: Any materials used for academic research or otherwise should be fully credited with the source. Researchers are advised that the disclosure of certain information pertaining to identifiable living individuals without the consent of those individuals may have legal implications, for which the University of Alabama assumes no responsibility.

Biographical / Historical

Eugene "Bull" Connor (1897-1973) is primarily remembered today as an icon of racial intolerance. Theophilus Eugene Connor was born on July 11, 1897, in Selma, Alabama, to Hugh King Connor, a train dispatcher and telegraph operator, and Molly Godwin Connor. When he was eight years old, Connor's mother died of pneumonia while the family was living in Atlanta. His father continued to travel, and Eugene spent much of his childhood and early teenage years living with relatives in Plantersville and Birmingham, Alabama. He attended school in both places but did not graduate. In 1920, he married Beara Levens, the daughter of a lumber-mill operator, and the couple had one daughter. The family settled permanently in Birmingham in 1922, and Connor worked as a telegraph operator, salesman, and popular sports radio announcer. During this time he acquired his nickname, Bull, from friends, who were amused by the similarity between Connor's name and a local newspaper cartoon character, Dr. B. U. L. Conner.

Connor served as a delegate to five Democratic National Conventions (1948, 1956, 1960, 1964, and 1968). At the 1948 convention, he helped lead a walkout by Southern delegates in protest of President Harry S. Truman's civil rights policies. This action resulted in a split in the southern wing of the Democratic Party, with the dissenters becoming known as Dixiecrats. In 1950, Connor ran unsuccessfully for governor and then returned to his work as a commissioner. He did not seek reelection to the commission in 1953 because of a scandal involving an extramarital affair and charges of police corruption, but he was voted back onto the commission in 1957.

A staunch and sometimes flamboyant white supremacist, Connor was known for making outrageous comments to the press and for instigating now-famous confrontations over Birmingham's segregation ordinances with First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt and U.S. Senator Glen Taylor. While apparently not a member of the Ku Klux Klan, Connor protected Klansmen who committed racial violence, including bombings. In 1961, he ordered Birmingham police to stay away from the Trailways bus station while Klansmen attacked the Freedom Riders, a group of civil rights activists who were touring the South to protest segregation. This attack, combined with his closing of city parks to prevent desegregation, the threatened closing of city schools, and Birmingham's worsening reputation in the national media, turned the local business community and a majority of the white electorate against Connor. In 1962, the citizens voted to change the form of city government, in part to remove him from office. (from Encyclopedia of Alabama, "Eugene 'Bull' Connor,

The Civil Rights Movement was at a peak from 1955-1965. Congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, guaranteeing basic civil rights for all Americans, regardless of race, after nearly a decade of nonviolent protests and marches, ranging from the 1955-1956 Montgomery bus boycott to the student-led sit-ins of the 1960s to the huge March on Washington in 1963. (from The Civil Rights Movement 1955-1968: Introduction,


0.3 Linear Feet

Language of Materials



The legal papers of the lawyer hire to represent the New York Times in defense of the libel suit stemming from an article by Harrison Salisbury , published on 12 April 1960, entitled "Fear and Hatred Grip Birmingham."

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of Mac Wyckoff, 2012

Separated Materials

Pages printed on thermal paper have been photocopied and the originals have been removed from their original folders and put into separate folders for better protection.

Processing Information

Processed by Martha Bace, 2012



Guide to Ralph Wyckoff Legal Papers
Finding aid created by Martha Bace, 2012
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the The University of Alabama Libraries Special Collections Repository

Box 870266
Tuscaloosa AL 35487-0266