James F. Blake

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First page of Parks' arrest report. Blake is listed as the complainant and warrant issuer.

James Fred Blake[1] (April 14, 1912 – March 21, 2002) was the bus driver whom Rosa Parks defied in 1955, prompting the Montgomery Bus Boycott.

Early life[edit]

Blake was drafted into the Army in December, 1943. His enlistment record states he was married and had attended 1 year of high school.[2] He served in the European theatre during World War II.

He worked as a bus driver for Montgomery City Bus Lines until 1974.[3]

Rosa Parks[edit]

One day in 1943, Parks boarded the bus and paid the fare. She then moved to her seat but Blake told her to follow city rules and enter the bus again from the back door. Parks exited the bus, but before she could re-board at the rear door, Blake drove off, leaving her to walk home in the rain.[4]

Twelve years later, they encountered each other again on December 1, 1955, when Blake ordered Rosa Parks and three other black people to move from the middle to the back of his Cleveland Avenue bus (number 2857) in order to make room for a white male passenger.[5] By Parks' account, Blake said, "Y'all better make it light on yourselves and let me have those seats." When she refused, Blake contacted the police and signed the warrant for her arrest. Chapter 6, Section 11 of the city code gave drivers police powers to racially assign seats.[6][7] This arrest sparked the Montgomery Bus Boycott and led to Browder v. Gayle, the 1956 court case on the basis of which a United States District Court abolished segregation in transportation for the jurisdiction in which Montgomery, Alabama is located.

Commenting on the event afterwards, Blake stated, "I wasn't trying to do anything to that Parks woman except do my job. She was in violation of the city codes, so what was I supposed to do? That damn bus was full and she wouldn't move back. I had my orders."[8]

Death[edit]

Blake continued working at the bus company for another 19 years. He died of a heart attack in his Montgomery home in 2002.

References[edit]

  1. ^ McClellan, Bill (2002-04-07). "Remarkable History Surrounded Man's Unremarkable Life" (payment for full view). St. Louis Post-Dispatch. p. E1. Retrieved 2009-07-27. "The attorney had grown up in that city, and he was returning for the funeral of one James Fred Blake, who had died at the age of 89. [...] Fred Blake had been the bus driver who had ordered Rosa Parks to give up her seat on that fateful day in December 1955." 
  2. ^ US National Archives and Records Administration. "Electronic Army Serial Number Merged File, ca. 1938 - 1946 (Enlistment Records)". Retrieved 9 April 2014. 
  3. ^ "Bus driver who gave her the wrong ticket then had Parks arrested dies at 89", Sun Herald, March 24, 2002
  4. ^ Woo, Elaine (2005-10-25). "She Set Wheels of Justice in Motion". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 22 July 2011. 
  5. ^ Pretzer, William. "The Power of 2857" American Heritage, November/December 2005.
  6. ^ "City charge faced by negro bus rider", Montgomery Advertiser, December 2, 1955
  7. ^ ""Sec. 11. Same--Powers of persons in charge of vehicle; passengers to obey directions.",Montgomery City Code,1952
  8. ^ "Obituary: James F Blake", The Guardian, 27 March 2002