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Joe Hendricks

Civil rights activist, mill worker and personal guard Joe Hendricks was born on March 22, 1927 in Boligee, Alabama to Louis Hendricks, a deacon, and Betty Hendricks, a former slave and housewife. Actively involved in the church from a young age, Hendricks would later utilize church grounds as a clandestine meeting place for civil rights discussions.

In 1941, after finishing the eighth grade at Jane Woods Elementary School, Hendricks began working at Jim Dandy, a mill that produced dog food, grits and corn meal. Eventually, Hendricks became a pack operator for the mill and joined the Workers’ Union. After Hendricks joined the union, he lost his job at the mill and was forced into unemployment for ten months. During Hendricks’ period of unemployment, he became the guard for civil rights activist and religious leader Rev. Fred L. Shuttlesworth. In addition to being Shuttleworth’s guard, Hendricks frequently participated in Monday night meetings at his local church, where African Americans in the community would discuss upcoming civil rights activities, including organizational strategies for protests and sit-ins. Hendricks was often subjected to dog attacks and dangerous water hose sprayings during protests. Hendricks was on duty guarding Rev. Shuttleworth’s house when it was bombed by several unnamed persons in 1956.

Hendricks eventually regained his position at the Jim Dandy mill, and retired after thirty-eight years of service. He still remains active in his community, and is involved in his local church choir at the New Pilgrim Baptist Church.

Joe Hendricks was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on March 22, 2007.

Joe Hendricks passed away on August 23, 2012.

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Jones Wood Elementary School

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Favorite Quote

Give Thanks To The Lord, For He Is Good

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Favorite Food

Fish, Vegetables

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Short Description

Civil rights activist and mill worker Joe Hendricks (1927 - 2012 ) was the guard for Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth. Joe Hendricks was present at the bombing of Reverend Fred Shuttleworth's house in 1956. He was the target of many attacks on civil rights protestors led by Alabama police chief Bull Connor.


Western Grain Company

Rev. Fred Shuttleworth

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Timing Pairs

<a href="">Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Joe Hendricks's interview</a>

<a href="">Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Joe Hendricks lists his favorites</a>

<a href="">Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Joe Hendricks remembers choosing to adopt his maternal grandfather's name</a>

<a href="">Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Joe Hendricks describes his maternal grandparents</a>

<a href="">Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Joe Hendricks describes his mother</a>

<a href="">Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Joe Hendricks describes his father's family background</a>

<a href="">Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Joe Hendricks remembers his paternal grandmother</a>

<a href="">Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Joe Hendricks remembers his paternal grandfather</a>

<a href="">Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Joe Hendricks describes his father</a>

<a href="">Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Joe Hendricks lists his siblings</a>

<a href="">Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Joe Hendricks describes his childhood pastimes</a>

<a href="">Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Joe Hendricks remembers the Great Depression</a>

<a href="">Tape: 1 Story: 13 - Joe Hendricks describes his early church involvement</a>

<a href="">Tape: 1 Story: 14 - Joe Hendricks describes his earliest childhood memory</a>

<a href="">Tape: 1 Story: 15 - Joe Hendricks remembers the Jones Wood School in Tishabee, Alabama</a>

<a href="">Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Joe Hendricks describes his education at Jones Wood School</a>

<a href="">Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Joe Hendricks describes his early activities</a>

<a href="">Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Joe Hendricks remembers working for Western Grain Company in Birmingham, Alabama</a>

<a href="">Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Joe Hendricks recalls mediating for the United Steelworkers of America</a>

<a href="">Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Joe Hendricks recalls his termination from the Western Grain Company</a>

<a href="">Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Joe Hendricks recalls challenging his termination from the Western Grain Company</a>

<a href="">Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Joe Hendricks remembers guarding Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth's home</a>

<a href="">Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Joe Hendricks recalls the arrest of a white congregant</a>

<a href="">Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Joe Hendricks remembers Monday civil rights meetings in Birmingham, Alabama</a>

<a href="">Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Joe Hendricks recalls his imprisonment for civil disobedience</a>

<a href="">Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Joe Hendricks recalls rescuing the Freedom Riders in Anniston, Alabama, pt. 1</a>

<a href="">Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Joe Hendricks recalls rescuing the Freedom Riders in Anniston, Alabama, pt. 2</a>

<a href="">Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Joe Hendricks describes his concerns about driving the white female Freedom Riders</a>

<a href="">Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Joe Hendricks describes his wife's role in the Civil Rights Movement</a>

<a href="">Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Joe Hendricks recalls his interactions with Bull Connor</a>

<a href="">Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Joe Hendricks remembers Alabama's segregation laws</a>

<a href="">Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Joe Hendricks recalls the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama</a>

<a href="">Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Joe Hendricks recalls Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth's church in Birmingham, Alabama</a>

<a href="">Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Joe Hendricks recalls a confrontation with Bull Connor</a>

<a href="">Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Joe Hendricks recalls protecting James Armstrong's family from the Ku Klux Klan</a>

<a href="">Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Joe Hendricks recalls the treatment of child demonstrators</a>

<a href="">Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Joe Hendricks describes his training in nonviolence</a>

<a href="">Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Joe Hendricks recalls meetings of the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights</a>

<a href="">Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Joe Hendricks describes his employer's disapproval of his civil rights activity</a>

<a href="">Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Joe Hendricks remembers Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr.'s assassination</a>

<a href="">Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Joe Hendricks talks about his children</a>

<a href="">Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Joe Hendricks talks about his retirement</a>

<a href="">Tape: 4 Story: 10 - Joe Hendricks reflects upon his life</a>

<a href="">Tape: 4 Story: 11 - Joe Hendricks describes how he would like to be remembered</a>

<a href="">Tape: 4 Story: 12 - Joe Hendricks shares his message to future generations</a>

<a href="">Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Joe Hendricks narrates his photographs</a>







Joe Hendricks recalls rescuing the Freedom Riders in Anniston, Alabama, pt. 2
Joe Hendricks describes his training in nonviolence
So we got there and the sheriff and the police stopped me outside of the building. "Where you going?" I said, "I'm here, I, because I'm interested in trying to get these people to Birmingham [Alabama] and I'd like to talk to someone." "I ain't got nothing to talk about." I said, "Well, all's I know I didn't make an appointment with you but I'm here for that purpose and I'd like to talk to someone." I said, "Normally because I have a chance to talk to no one but you because you did, you are the officer that have the law under control that you are the person that I have to respect because you're the law." I said, "But I'm asking you if I could go in and talk to 'em or would you, could I talk to you and you, me and you could work out something?" So he, we, we did. So he finally said, "Somebody ought to do something." I said, "Officer, you're right, somebody should do something." I said, "But, ain't no one can do nothing about this but you." I said, "You stopped me before I could get inside to talk to the people in there and when you said, stop, you're the law and I stopped." I said, "The only somebody that can do something about this is you. You are the person that's in charge."$$So did he let you in to talk to any of the people?$$No.$$Okay. Were you able to get them out to take them to Birmingham?$$Well we got 'em out finally. So he said to me, finally. I said, "Officer, don't you answer me now." I said, "Think about it and then give me an answer." So he did. When he came back, he said, "I'll tell you what, I'm going to go over here and I'm going to get with the other policemen and we're going to take a vote." I said, "I appreciate that." So he did.$$Who are they voting on?$$Whether they're going to let me get 'em out of there or not.$$Oh, I see, okay.$$So, he finally came back. He said, "Well they said you can get 'em under one circumstance." I said, "What's that?" "If you take 'em, you take 'em on your own and don't call us and don't expect us to do nothing but we'll let you have 'em but don't expect us to have anything to do with whatever happens to you."$In preparation for these marches, and at these Monday night meetings, tell me more about the strategies that were used and you said you were trained not to hit back. What were some of the meetings and trainings like?$$Well, the training was this. If you were out there with a .38 and these people out there with a machine gun, what you going to strike for? You know, you got to study the direction of where I'm going and what's there after I get there. You can't go in there knowing that you don't have the equipment to deal with the circumstance. We act up one night and I'd get in our work. We've taken care of the police department but when they called in the National Guards, see, those people can call the National Guards, part of the [U.S.] Army and all that junk, and those people don't understand what is, what hasn't experienced it. When they called the National Guards in here and they got off, that's like, have you ever see blackbirds fly? When a man say, hip hop, they hit the ground all at once. So when they hit the ground sound like wind (makes sound). When they hit the ground, there was some apartments there, didn't have no one in it. When they hit the ground when they, (makes sound), it dropped, toppled over those apartments. When they got off, they got off and they swung those guns and cut that top off of the side but when you go to looking at the facts, you got to deal, you've got to be prepared to deal with how far to go.$$Okay, so that's what the training was about?$$(Nods head) And then those dogs was pulling your clothes off you and cutting your clothes down your side, all this kind of stuff but you got to be able to deal with it.$$Well what did they teach you about if something like that were to happen like if the hoses come or, was there any instruction if they were to hose you down of, or let loose the dogs, what were you supposed to do?$$We, we overcome the hose. We made up, we made our, we made our condition to overcome the hose.$$And how?$$A man, a young, a young guy, one of their leaders out of town came here and they was washing us down the street with the hose. He said, "Come here, come here." He taken those children and us and made five people against this person and the other person against the other person. Say now, when they hit you with the hose, all you, you all lean the same way and go on downtown. He said, I don't want the girls on the outside, give me all boys over here, at least two boys on this side and the girls in the middle and when he hit you with the hose, all you, you all push in that direction. We went on downtown to sit in a neighbor store, we want to sit in, (laughter) but it--$$(OFF CAMERA VOICE): When you sat in the stores, what had you been trained to do?$$Go sit in and they--$$(OFF CAMERA VOICE): And then do what?$$And they, if they come out there saying something about you sitting down, you sit on the floor, (laughter) you know, make use of it, that's what they call the sit-in and then you deal with it, the problem 'cause you know what you expect that when you get there. So you have to prepare. That's what you do when you go face down, don't you? So, those were the thing that you, come with, you have to do. If you don't deal with it, you can't ignore the fact.