These two signs advertised “Oneil Resturant” [sic] in Selma, Alabama in the 1990’s. Oneil Hoggle was one of 4 segregationists shamefully acquitted by an all-white jury of killing Civil Rights supporter Reverend James Reeb. Oneal Hoggle later opened a used car dealership (still open) and the restaurant; I believe the restaurant no longer exists. These signs are made of thick, dark green plastic.
A member of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), Reeb came to Selma to join protests for African American voting rights following the attack by state troopers and sheriff’s deputies on nonviolent demonstrators on March 7, 1965. After eating dinner at an integrated restaurant March 9, Reeb and two other Unitarian ministers Rev. Clark Olsen and Rev. Orloff Miller, were attacked and beaten by white men armed with clubs. Several hours elapsed before Reeb was admitted to a Birmingham hospital where doctors performed brain surgery. While Reeb was on his way to the hospital in Birmingham, Martin Luther King, Jr. addressed a press conference lamenting the ‘‘cowardly’’ attack and asking all to pray for his protection. Reeb died two days later.” His death resulted in a national outcry against the activities of white racists in the Deep South.
Given the many lynchings of blacks in the 20th century, and other violence against activists, some blacks expressed indignation that it took the death of a white man to incite the national outcry against southern violence. When Jimmie Lee Jackson was shot dead by police in Marion, Alabama, two weeks earlier while protecting his mother from a beating, his case attracted less national attention.
“Reeb’s death provoked mourning throughout the country, and tens of thousands held vigils in his honor. President Lyndon B. Johnson called Reeb’s widow and father to express his condolences, and on 15 March he invoked Reeb’s memory when he delivered a draft of the Voting Rights Act to Congress. That same day Martin Luther King Jr. eulogized Reeb at a ceremony at Brown’s Chapel in Selma:
James Reeb, symbolizes the forces of good will in our nation. He demonstrated the conscience of the nation. He was an attorney for the defense of the innocent in the court of world opinion. He was a witness to the truth that men of different races and classes might live, eat, and work together as brothers (King, 15 March 1965).
Four Selma men were arrested and charged with murder. However, they were immediately released on bond. A few months after Reeb’s death, an all-white, all-male jury in Dallas County acquitted Elmer Cook, Stanley Hoggle, and O’Neal Hoggle of all charges, whereas the fourth individual left Alabama for Mississippi and the judge declared he did not have to stand trial.. The Voting Rights Act was passed on August 6, 1965.
In July 2007, the Boston Globe reported that the FBI’s Cold Case Initiative had reopened the investigation into the 46-year-old case. The renewed investigation was also reported by The Anniston Star and The Clarion-Ledger of Jackson, Miss., in conjunction with the Civil Rights Cold Case Project.