Mobile City Councilman Shot in South Africa, Freedom Riders Remembered in Montgomery

May 23, 2016

U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson speaks at Freedom Riders commemoration in Montgomery, Ala.
Credit Alex AuBuchon / APR

A Mobile city councilman is in stable condition today after he was shot during a robbery in South Africa this weekend.

City Councilman C.J. Small owns and operates Small’s Mortuary and Cremation Services in Mobile. He was in Johannesburg attending the South African Funeral Director and Morticians Association Convention. At around noon Johannesburg time, the tour bus Small was riding was ambushed and several patrons were robbed. Small was shot in the face during the incident, and some other passengers were injured.

Small’s family is currently working with the U.S. Consulate Office in Johannesburg as well as Secretary of State John Kerry’s office to ensure the councilman can safely travel back to the United States.

Small is a Mobile native and has served on the Mobile City Council since 2012.

Civil rights activists and historians spent the weekend remembering the 55th anniversary of the Freedom Rides that swept across Alabama in 1961.

The Alabama Historical Commission commemorated the rides with an event at a former Greyhound bus station in Montgomery. That station is where a group of student activists was attacked by a mob while challenging segregationist transportation policies in the South. The station has now been converted into a civil rights museum, and many of those Freedom Riders gathered there to share their stories.

U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson was among the speakers at Friday’s program. He says one of the best ways to forget something is to commemorate it, and these events should be treated differently.

“…as a call to action, as the Freedom Riders did, to board buses again – albeit figurative ones – and ride into those areas of the country still hostile to justice.”

The Freedom Rides Museum is open from noon to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. For more information, head to their website at FreedomRidesMuseum.org.

For music fans, it’s back to reality after the Hangout Music Festival wrapped up last night in Gulf Shores. For the city, it’s all hands on deck to get ready for Memorial Day weekend.

In order to handle the tens of thousands of attendees and dozens of musical performances, Hangout organizers have to build what amounts to a small city on the Gulf Shores beach. Organizers say it takes weeks to put together, but it all has to come down in just a few days.

Grant Brown is the Recreation and Cultural Affairs Director for the City of Gulf Shores.

“Immediately after the close of show on Sunday night, great effort is put to remove all the steel from the staging and from all the equipment, to get it off the beaches so then the city can take over, clean up the sand, re-groom the beaches to make sure we have an appropriate beachfront for our Memorial Day weekend, which really kicks off our summer.”

Brown says all public beaches in Gulf Shores will reopen to the public by this Thursday.