By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
In this atmosphere of extreme conservatism in the 1960s and '70s, fear of violent white reprisal, of bombings and murder, was absolutely real. The bombings happened. Johnson told the gathering last Sunday of a particular night in 1969, when the SCLC and its supporters were huddled in the basement of Mount Olive Lutheran Church, planning an action to stop the Cotton Bowl Parade the next day in protest of real estate discrimination.
The Dallas police chief, Johnson said, came to the church and ordered it evacuated because of repeated credible bomb threats that were coming in.
"He said, 'We can't let you stay here,'" Johnson said Sunday. Johnson told a rapt audience last Sunday that he told the chief that night he knew all about the threats. The bomb threats were being called in to the church as well. He told the chief some people would leave and some would not. He said he told everyone present in the basement that night who had children with them or waiting at home to leave.
Johnson said he drew a line across the church basement floor. He told the anxious crowd in the basement that anyone who wanted to leave could go and there would be no hard feelings. Anyone who wanted to stay and brave the bomb threats and whatever else might follow should cross the line.
"The first person to walk across that line," Johnson said, "was Albert Lipscomb."