The Peacekeeper: Halting a Murder

May 20, 1961. A group of African-American civil rights protesters led by John Lewis had just arrived at the bus station in Montgomery, Alabama, where a hate-filled white mob awaited them. As the mob closed in to attack with heavy clubs, Lewis urged his people: “Stand together. Don’t run. Just stand together!”

The mob yelled, “Kill him. Kill him.”

Murder might have ensued had not Floyd Mann charged into the bus station. Mann, Alabama’s public safety commissioner, was a committed segregationist but tough on law and order.

He fired his gun into the air and shouted, “There’ll be no killing here today.” A white attacker raised his bat for what would have been a final and probably fatal blow against young William Barbee.

Mann put his gun to the assailant’s head. “One more swing,” he said, “and you’re dead.” The violence promptly ceased.

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