Ruby Nell Sales oral history interview conducted by Joseph Mosnier in Atlanta, Georgia, 2011-04-25.
RS: Yes. And we got to the store, and Tom Coleman was standing in the door, and he had a gun. And it’s one of these moments where you’re there, but you’re not there. You’re sort of stopped in your footsteps, but you’re trying to figure out how to move. And he said, “Bitch,” because I’m [popping sound and change in sound level] - I was in the front. [Sound level returns] He said, “Bitch, I’ll blow your brains out.” And the next thing I knew, I was pulled backwards and I fell, literally fell.
And [45:00] Jonathan - I heard a shot, and it was Jonathan. He shot Jonathan. Jonathan never made a sound. I think he was dead instantly or in a coma instantly. Father Morrisroe, who was with us, the Catholic priest who had literally just come to the South when Martin Luther King issued the call, [pause] held onto Joyce Bailey’s hands, a local young girl, seventeen years old, who had been in jail. And they were running together, and the next thing I knew, there was another shot. And, unlike Jonathan, Father Morrisroe began to emit moans and begging for water.
And Joyce Bailey, with some level of consciousness still working, headed that way and went around the - in the South you always have these cars [nb: additional unintelligible word?] - went around to those empty cars and called my name. And it was when I could hear her that I realized that I wasn’t dead. Prior to that, I thought I was dead. I had no sense that Jonathan was dead. But I got up on my knees - not got up - I got on my knees and crawled over to Joyce, and we ran over to the area where the civil rights workers, where the southern freedom workers still remained.
And Jimmie Rogers, Gloria Larry, Ruby Sales, and Joyce Bailey went back over to try to give Father Morrisroe water. And Tom Coleman, like a wild man, was flinging his gun and saying he would blow our brains out if we tried to give - if we didn’t leave. He let that man lay down there in the hot August sun, shot, begging for water, and threatened to kill anybody who helped him. We dispersed and ran in different directions.
And somehow I got back to the Freedom House. And when Stokely Carmichael and Silas Norman, who was the project director of Selma, Alabama - when Silas Norman and Stokely heard what had happened, they went downtown. And when they got there, the streets were clean, and Jonathan and Father Morrisroe were missing.
Now, it wasn’t a simple thing of knowing where they went. For several days, the SNCC office, Ruby Doris Smith, tried to find out where they were, and nobody would tell us. So, not only was Jonathan dead, he was also missing. And they talked with John Doar of the FBI - I mean of the Justice Department, sorry - and trying to - and Mrs. - you can imagine his mother not knowing where he was. And finally, they located the morgue where Jonathan was and the hospital where Father Morrisroe was.
Now, I don’t know if you’ve heard the story of - Father Morrisroe’s story.