Study Guide

Eugene "Bull" Connor in Letter from Birmingham Jail

By Martin Luther King, Jr.

Eugene "Bull" Connor

Eugene "Bull" Connor is a sad historical figure. Sad because of the racist and segregationist culture he represented, and sad because he died defeated and marginalized.

Although he held positions of relative power during his life, that power was continuously undermined. Examples: His Birmingham job as Commissioner of Public Safety (which he had held for 22 years) was actually eliminated right from under him, in part because all of the bombings the town was getting known for. Not much public safety there. He lost a long-running lawsuit against the New York Times. Then he lost a mayoral election. Then he lost a suit trying to get his old job back.

Oof.

He suffered perhaps his greatest defeat during the 1963 Birmingham Campaign that landed King in jail. He thought that he could intimidate and push back the Black protestors with German Shepherds, water cannons, and beatings. But what he thought was going to be a heroic stand against the "Black threat" (or whatever) turned out to be a humiliating rout.

His brutal tactics were displayed on national television to the nation's dismay. He ran out of space in his jail because hundreds of children were coming out to protest. And in the end, the SCLC and friends were victorious: segregationist business owners in Birmingham realized they had lost and decided it was time to negotiate.

Before he died in 1973, Connor watched as his beliefs (read: delusions) were disrespected and disregarded by ever-increasing numbers of people, and saw those delusions ultimately rejected by the federal government when Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Acts of 1964 and 1968, and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Not to be petty, but…take that.