MONTGOMERY, ALA. -- What about the bus driver? Has anybody ever tried asking him about it? Yes, yes, the name the world thinks of -- and rightly -- is Rosa Parks. But there were other forces, other players, other fates bound up with the event history knows as the 1955 Montgomery Bus Boycott. The man who was driving the Cleveland Avenue bus on the day it began was James F. Blake. He's always there in the small print. It's a name on the wrong side of history. Could he still be alive? It's a handsome little white frame house on a corner lot in a neighborhood called Capitol Heights. There's a pot of geraniums on the front step. No one answers, so you go around to the side. A window unit is rattling, a TV is flickering in a shade-drawn room. There's a late-model sedan under a tin-roof carport. This is the home of anybody who ever worked hard for wages. An elderly figure comes to the door. He doesn't have his shoes on and there's a hole in the toe of his right sock. He is tall and spindly. You could picture him in a hard-brimmed cap and a gray pleated gabardine jacket, the vest pocket of which is stitched with the words "Montgomery City Lines." He's got on a short-sleeve white shirt, and his forearm is pale. He's holding open the outer door about a foot and a half. Behind him another elderly person is moving. "Yessir?" he says, inquiringly, pleasantly. "C'n I help you with something?" Seconds later the sky at 2301 Windsor Ave. has seemed to crack open. "No! No! It's over, get away," a stricken voice says. James F. Blake has bolted backward, as if stung by yellow jackets. His fingers are working furiously to get his door latched. "I have nothing to say, leave me alone, I've closed the book on it. All they've ever written about it is lies. Lies!" From behind glass a man is shaking his head in a violent No. So it's done before it's begun. Except it's not. Because the door unlatches again. "Okay," he says, "I'm going to tell you one thing about it, no, I'm going to tell you two things about it. The first is that niggers all up and around here were calling up my house for weeks after it happened, just any hour of the day or night, making the vilest threats to me and my wife and family you ever heard. You ever seen that in your history books? "Now, the second thing -- " But Mrs. Blake has come into the doorway. She's in a red housecoat and of course hardly needs this kind of sudden Sunday afternoon chaos. She is struggling to get hold of her husband's arm, yank him back. "Close the door on him," she says. "Slam it, Jim. It's lies, lies, they put out lies, you know that." "You go over there and sit down, Edna," he commands. And then, turning back, finishing: "I wasn't trying to do anything to that Parks woman except do my job. She was in violation of the city codes. What was I supposed to do? That damn bus was full and she wouldn't move back. I had my orders. I had police powers -- any driver for the city did. So the bus filled up and a white man got on and she had his seat and I told her to move back and she wouldn't do it. "Now what nobody knows is that I was under orders from my company to call them first. I've seen it said as how I got up and swore at her and then went and called the police and told them to come get her. Well, I called the company first, just like I was supposed to do. Nobody ever wrote that. I got my supervisor on the line. He said, 'Did you warn her, Jim?' I said, 'I warned her.' And he said, and I remember it just like I'm standing here, 'Well then, Jim, you do it, you got to exercise your powers and put her off, hear?' And that's just what I did. So then the cops came and carted her off. I swore out the warrant. That's all I'll say. You take your story from there." It was a simple No, I won't move back. Eldridge Cleaver later wrote that at that moment somewhere in the universe a gear in the machinery shifted. Martin Luther King Jr. said it was the instant in time when a woman got "anchored to her seat by the accumulated indignities of days gone by, and by the boundless aspirations of generations yet unborn." Her name was Rosa Parks, and she was an ascetic-looking 42-year-old Montgomery seamstress who made $23 a week, but this story isn't about her, not really. It's about Georgia Gilmore and Rufus Lewis and Urelee Gordon and E.D. Nixon and Fred D. Gray and yes, James F. Blake. It's about the ones the firmament didn't find. You could call them the Rosencrantzes and Guildensterns, except saying that throws it off a little. Because Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are but bit characters in "Hamlet," while some of the real-life players here were vital to the dream. Some won't be around much longer; a few are already gone. Each had a part, unwitting or designed, circumstantial or critical in a 13-month event historians now regard as the start of civil rights protest in America. But first a snapshot, of a time and of a triggering moment. In 1955 the "Cradle of the Confederacy," as white Montgomery was proud to call itself, was a pleasant little segregated metropolis at a sharp bend in the left bank of the Alabama River. The city made syrup and brooms and window sashes and boiler parts. License plates were festooned with Stars and Bars. Lunchrooms had "colored only" sides and "white only" sides. The police force was white, the bus drivers were white, just about anything you could think of with power attached to it was white. The city fathers had put in a wonderful sanitary system, "with white death rate averaging 11 per 1,000." That's from the city directory of 1955. An as-yet little-known state judge named George Corley Wallace was hearing cases down in Barbour County. And a 26-year-old Atlanta-born preacher named Martin Luther King Jr. was a newcomer to town. He had his fire, but the world didn't know him yet. The downtown church, where "Mike" King was serving his first flock, was little more than a rock-throw from where Jefferson Davis once stood and took the oath of the Confederacy. There were 18 Negro taxi companies in the city, but colored Montgomery mainly rode public transportation; clinked in its hard-won dime at the projects on the west side and went over to the fine big houses and wide lawns in the other sections of town. They got there by sitting in the back of airless helmet-humped yellow-and-olive buses. The city bus lines of Montgomery, no different from anywhere else in the Deep South, were just a microcosm of the larger caste system conspiring to hold a people down. In fact, Montgomery's bus drivers could make a black passenger get off, once the coin was in, then walk along the outside of the bus and get on again through the rear door. Some drivers were known to slam the doors once a black person had deboarded and then crunch off down the avenue. You couldn't do that every time, of course, and get away with it. For more than a year there had been talk among the city's black activists of trying to organize a boycott. There had been several previous incidents and arrests. Blacks made up almost 75 percent of bus ridership in Montgomery, and that was a potent statistic. Whenever the moment -- and the person -- were right. On Thursday, Dec. 1, 1955, with Dollar Days doing a brisk business and the weather beginning to sour, a tailor's assistant emerged from her job at the Montgomery Fair department store at Court Square in the heart of downtown. Christmas lights blinked overhead on Dexter Avenue, and Salvation Army Santas stood on corners with their red buckets and dreary bells. This woman, who wore wire-rim glasses and was admired throughout the black community for her sense of dignity, and who had worked for a number of years as a secretary of the local NAACP, had a pain in her shoulders and across her neck. This was because part of her work consisted of standing for hours at huge steam presses. Her intention when she got out onto the street that evening was to catch the bus home, cook supper for her husband Raymond -- he cut hair at the Atlas Barber Shop -- and then maybe get her feet up on the sofa for an hour or two. But history had another gleam. The bus shed was crowded. In her discomfort, reluctant to jockey for a seat, Rosa Parks crossed the street and went into Lee's Cut Rate Drug. She thought she might buy a heating pad, though they were costlier than she figured. When the next Cleveland Avenue bus came along, she looked through the window and saw there were seats. She got on, put in her money, found a spot in the middle section. This was breaking no laws, since there were still empty places in the forward section. The first stop after she got on was in front of the Empire Theater. Ray Milland was playing in "A Man Alone." By the next stop the bus was full and a white man was left standing in the aisle. The driver, who was a veteran of the company with three children at home, the youngest of whom was 3, twisted in his seat and called out to Parks and three others: "Y'all better make it light on yourselves and let me have those seats." Or at least this is the remark that usually appears in books and oral histories. One account alleges that he yelled: "Niggers, move back." Three moved, one didn't. When the police came, the refusenik spoke so softly she could barely be heard in the row ahead. "Why do you push us around?" she asked. "I do not know," answered one of the arresting officers, "but the law is the law, and you are under arrest." Officers F.B. Day and D.W. Mixon took her off. At the jail house she was put in a cell with two others. By all accounts, everyone was polite to her. The headline on Page 9 in the next day's Advertiser said this: NEGRO JAILED HERE FOR 'OVERLOOKING' BUS SEGREGATION. The story was just five paragraphs long. The world had no idea. The fine in Recorder's Court on the following Monday was $14 -- $10 for the offense, $4 for costs. Of such puny things are revolutions made. It had started now and wouldn't be stopped. Within hours of the arrest, 35,000 handbills announcing a one-day boycott of all public transportation had been flooded through the black sections of town. On the evening that a mass vote was taken to go forward -- for as long as it took, at whatever price -- a smooth-skinned, boyish-lookish preacher, who'd just been elected leader of the Montgomery Improvement Association, got up in the Holt Street Baptist Church and let his rhetoric roll like the Jordan. "If we are wrong -- the Supreme Court of this nation is wrong," he sang. "If we are wrong -- God Almighty is wrong. If we are wrong -- Jesus of Nazareth was merely a utopian dreamer and never came down to earth. If we are wrong -- justice is a ... lie!" Martin Luther King Jr. had not quite 12 years and four months left before an assassin located him in cross hairs on a Memphis balcony. A one-day protest turned into a year-long nationally watched revolt. The segregationist mayor, Tacky Gayle (his real name was Bill Gayle, but even his friends called him Tacky), said it would never last. "My feet are tired, but my soul is rested," one anonymous walker said, and that was but the poetry of it. Houses were bombed, the Klan came out in its funny-looking pointy hats. The city commissioners ceremoniously joined the White Citizens Council. But none of it mattered. For 381 days, until the Supreme Court told them they were correct, a people walked -- 40,000 strong. They were maids and cooks and janitors and charwomen and hod carriers, and they walked, or at least they refused to ride. Because one of the intriguing things about this story is how quickly this powerless people managed to rig their own ingenious 300-car transportation network, using every half-rolling station wagon they could dredge and dragoon. It was numbers as astonishing political force. It was disenfranchised people with their eyes on a prize. One small woman's No in the gathering dark of a suppertime bus in the Birthplace of Dixie had become, improbably, the collected No of black history in America. The Woman Who Made Pies She has huge hands, smooth and pink on the insides. Scores of Montgomery babies were midwifed into light by these two-toned hands. "I never lost one," she says. "I was real lucky. Now, a woman with her first time, it can take you anywheres from 18 to 72 hours to get that child out." In the Second War, as she calls it, she went to Florida and dug up ties for the Seaboard Airline Railway. The job was called "rip track," and Georgia Gilmore showed those union bosses she had the hands to handle it. During the boycott, she made pies. Walkers had to eat. Actually she made full meals, and sold them at pennies above cost. You could either come to her house or take a covered plate home. Sitting down to Georgia Gilmore's black-eyed peas and okra and fried chicken was sitting down to Montgomery heaven. Important strategy meetings were conducted at her table, she says. "Cause so many other places was wired -- you know?" The stretch marks in her upper arms are like a river at its delta. There's a fringed green coverlet over the sofa, there's a painting of the Sacred Heart behind her head. "Reverend King," as she keeps referring to him in reverential tones, is framed under a lamp. "He put me in his books," she says, not even trying to keep the pride out. " 'Strive Toward Freedom,' I think that was the first book Reverend King put me in. I ain't read 'em all." She had another idea during the revolt: Start a social club, get anonymous donors, and then turn the proceeds over to the boycott leaders. That's just what she did. She called it The Club From Nowhere. And that's just what it was. Bobby Kennedy once dined at her famous table, though this of course was later, in the next decade, when the Movement was upper case. In her back yard is the hulking Chrysler Imperial she drove to the 1963 March on Washington. It's still got a Wax Museum bumper sticker on it. She hasn't run this car in years, but you're crazy if you think she's going to part with it. She stores stuff in it. Up until about three years ago she was still cooking and catering meals. But her sugar's low now. She's had the blackouts. When the white power structure put a stop to the midwifery (this also was during the boycott, she says), she went to work downtown at the National Lunch Room. She got up at 4 o'clock to make the bacon, the eggs, cook the greens. "Doesn't seem right, does it," she says, "some peoples doing all the work, and a few peoples getting all the money." Her boy Mark is a city councilman. A black man on the city council in Montgomery, Alabama? Of course: The reward comes to those who wait. "Actually, they all did real well," she says, that big grin wreathing her again. "I have a registered nurse in Chicago. I have an evangelist in Jamaica. I have a merchant in New York. My daughter Oscar Mae is a secretary over here at Alabama State." What seems remarkable is her anger. It is serene. And she says: "See, the way I figured it, people always had to eat. So I made the pies. I made full meals. I'd have two meats every day. I'd have chicken, maybe meatloaf with cream potatoes, cheese and macaroni, rutabagas, peas with okra, lettuce and tomato, apple pie and iced tea. We were walking in that boycott, but we weren't hungry. They'd come and eat at my house, or sometimes I'd deliver the foods to them. I think I charged $2 with the dessert. If they wanted just the peas and okra and iced tea and a muffin, that cost them 85 cents. We didn't starve. Nosir. "I reckon we were brave because we didn't have nothing to lose. Oh, it wasn't so bad, really. You'd get cussed at now and then. They'd holler out the window, 'Nigger, don't you know it's better to ride than walk?' We'd say under our breath, 'No, cracker. I ain't gettin' on till Jim Crow gets off.' I never did have to walk all that much. I learned to drive a car. Mostly I used the car pool. "I only got into real trouble one time. A white man had a grocery around the corner. Now I sent the child down there to get a loaf and he brought home a stale loaf. So I went on back up there myself and he started cussing me. I guess the pressure of the boycott and all had got to him. I guess it got to me. I grabbed him. Right in his own store. I had him down on the floor. I had him in a headlock. I took a real chance, but nothing ever happened to me. Afterward, I went up and talked to my priest. He said, 'Georgia, you got to control your temper.' Just like Reverend King says, 'Just don't pay 'em any attention and they'll go away.' Course, that time I paid 'im a little attention." The laugh seems to erupt somewhere down around her toenails and then rumble up like a line of deep summer thunder. It goes perhaps half a minute, subsides. "Now, I shouldn't be talking like that, should I?" she says. A Town Tucked in Time There are moments when the town begins to feel like a little museum tucked in time, a diorama of the year 1955. Here's the church where Ralph David Abernathy used to minister. (He, too, was just another local preacher in 1955.) Here's the porch at 309 S. Jackson, where a cracker's bomb went off one night early in 1956. The boycott was two months old then, and no one knew where it would lead. Martin Luther King Jr. and his family were living in this house, which was the manse -- still is -- of Dexter Avenue Baptist Church. There's a divot in the red concrete floor, smooth to the touch, as if a thousand shrinegoers had rubbed their fingers there. Here's the Ben Moore Hotel, where secret meetings were held on the roof. The Ben Moore was one of the premier black hotels of the South. Blacks couldn't stay downtown, of course. It's empty now, wheezing against time. Here's the Montgomery Fair department store, its ornate front propped with girders, just a shell, as though a prop for a movie. Actually, someone is making a movie in town. The picture is called "The Long Walk Home." It's in production behind a shopping center on the south side. Hollywood has excavated the old '50s city buses, and dreamed up its own boycott plot, and brought in Sissy Spacek and Whoopi Goldberg to give things the right degree of tinsel. Montgomery doesn't seem to know quite what to make of all this. According to the producers the film is loosely based on the historical event and is supposed to be out by Christmas. Somebody who works at a cable company is said to be playing Martin Luther King Jr. He's a remarkable look-alike. It's a small part, actually. In a sense all you really need is the phone book. Judge D. Eugene Loe is watching "Entertainment Tonight" when you ring him up. He's 83 now, hale and gravelly. Upheld the law here 60 years. Heck, yeah, he'll be glad to talk to you about that boycott. Back then Judge Loe was City Prosecutor Loe, and so he prosecuted, on behalf of his community and his culture, one fingerprinted and out-on-bond Rosa Parks, who stood accused of being in violation of Chap. 6, Sec. 11, of city codes. "She was quite polite, as I recall," he says, the tones rich and pleasurable with Dixie. "It was just a routine case that came up. We didn't know we were making history. And by the way, when Reverend King later came up at his own trial, I think I was sitting on the bench. Isn't that what the books say? Aren't I in those books? Now, what made the Negroes' boycott a success, in my opinion, is all the white people who had yardmen and domestics. They ended up hauling half of 'em to work when they wouldn't get on the buses." Here's E.D. Nixon's house, on Clinton. The widow Nixon lives here now, with her dog, Teenie. The two markers in the front yard, one put up by the Alabama Historical Commission, proclaim her husband the "Father of the Modern Civil Rights Movement. A Forgotten Hero." E.D. Nixon was a Montgomery sleeping car porter who helped make bond for Rosa Parks on the evening of Dec. 1. He was perhaps the boycott's chief architect and earliest believer, an activist whose work goes back to the '20s. His home got bombed too. "I'd been to church and come back," remembers Arlet Nixon. "I didn't have this dog, I had another one named Jackie. There was a baseball game on TV. I looked at it, and then I went in there to sleep. Maybe it was 10 or 10:30. My husband was out of town, on one of his runs up north on the train. And then I heard it. It went off. I said, 'Jackie, I don't know what it is, I don't know what it is. I don't know why they did that.' 'Cause first of all we hadn't done anything for them to act like that to us." As the boycott wore on, E.D. Nixon traveled around the country collecting money from wealthy Northern donors, bringing in $97,000. He made his living wearing a white coat and pulling people's beds out of the walls of Pullman cars. "We been wearing the white coat too long," he said. At Nixon's funeral two years ago, George Wallace was an honorary pallbearer, and George Wallace Jr. -- who's state treasurer -- came out to the cemetery. "He knelt down in front of me," says Arlet Nixon. "I was sitting on a carpet on one of those folding chairs in front of Daddy's grave. I guess he was praying or something." E.D. Nixon departed this life a semi-embittered man. He wanted more recognition for his role -- and should have had it. There's one landmark few people seem to know. It's 634 Cleveland Ct. Rosa and Raymond Parks lived here. No markers out front. Nobody comes to the door. Scabbed red earth; on the bottom step a tubeless rusted bike. One way to reach this part of town is by catching the No. 1 Rosa L. Parks at Court Square, coming past the rusted-out Empire Theater, onto Goldthwaite, onto Rosa L. Parks Avenue itself. Rosa Parks left this zone many years ago. She went north, north toward home, settling in Detroit. She worked two decades as a caseworker in the office of a Michigan congressman. She needed to make a living like anyone else. "Martin" became the Jesus of the movement, she was its overarching symbol. Recently Parks was in Topeka to help celebrate the 35th anniversary of Brown v. the Board of Education. She told her Kansas audience she had never meant to start a revolution, she was just tired. In Urelee's Hut The Parable of the Dignified Shine Boy. Does the parable reside in this: That he who is last shall one day be first? Isn't that, in a sense, what the civil rights movement was trying to say all along -- is still trying to say? The Dignified Shine Boy is Urelee Gordon, and right now, middle of a Saturday afternoon, he's bent over Montgomery's shoe leather. Actually, he works on the whole state's shoe tops. Alabama shine fanatics have been known to drive south from Birmingham, up from Mobile, over from Selma, down from Talledega, just for the spit-buffs and potion of custom-mixed creams in this ceramic-tiled hut. It's nothing for the addicted to bring 30 and 40 pair at a time in shopping bags and cardboard boxes. The mayor of Montgomery, the governor of the state, the Wallaces -- George Sr. and George Jr. -- they've all lined up at Urelee Gordon's. Ralph Abernathy lived a block away during the boycott. Martin was always coming in for polishes and conversation and the respite. Out back of the stand, a man is blackening rib slabs on an open fire. The Shine Boy himself is in a red fishnet shirt. He's got on a train engineer's apron and several coats of sweat. Rags hang out of every pocket. His body is redolent of his potions. All about him, finished shoes sit in cellophane fruit bags, waiting to be claimed. On the walls, amid "Go to Church Sunday" posters, amid framed photos of prominent state politicians, amid tacked-up sayings like IT TAKES MORE THAN A SHINE TO GIVE A MAN A POLISH, are stapled 8-by-10 color photos of bronze nudies. And the Shine Boy now says: "Nah, I didn't have much to do with the boycott, not really, though Martin always said I did. I been shining just a little while, 'bout 51 years. Martin liked his shine, he sure did. He used to send me postcards from all over the world. When he went to the cathedral in Durham, England, he sent me a postcard. I should of kept it but I pitched it. He'd always put some poetry on it. I bet it would be valuable now. He sent me a card from Sweden when he got that Nobel Prize. He sent me this other one from London, 'Urelee, the fogs of England were unable to damage your shine.' I can't remember how he put it exactly. He was so good with words, wasn't he? "I'd say, 'Reverend King, put your feet up.' We'd shine his wife's shoes, his children's shoes. He only lived up around yonder. He told me one time that my polishin' put his heart at rest. He told me I was helping him get through the boycott just by doing this job. He said, 'Urelee, I don't know how you do it, but I'd like to have your secrets.' I said, 'Reverend King, I don't know how you do it, either.' Well, it ain't nothing really. You got to know how much pressure to put on your rag, you got to know how to apply the polish, little things. "I was working one Sunday, had my back bent over a pair of shoes, and some of the neighbors came running down, 'Urelee, Urelee, Martin preached about you today.' I said, 'What?' They said, 'Urelee, he called it the Sermon of the Dignified Shine Boy.' The next time I saw him we just shook hands. I kept trying to say thank you. He said, 'I just preached the truth, brother.' " Interlude Sunday. A congregation is singing "Jesus, Savior, Pilot Me/ Over Life's Tempestuous Sea." The visiting preacher is from up north -- a scholar, with divinity degrees from Harvard. "I feel I have made my own history now," he says in his own still-discernible South Carolina cadences. "It is such an honor to be standing here where our great liberator preached. We are a blessed people, after all. Storms have beat on us, but we are here, we are privileged to be alive." The choir is in blue satin gowns. There is a simple, strong piano. There are fine old varnished pews. A Sunday light is slanting in. Elderly women in pearls and white nurses' dresses are poised at the back. They are ushers, and when you fumble for a hymnal one comes up and touches you softly on the shoulder, shows you which page. This is Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church. Martin Luther King Jr. served here from 1954 to 1960. The building is on the National Register of Historic Places. Several centuries ago masters penned slaves on this site, awaiting purchasers. And now this old red brick church is dying. Membership is withering. God writes straight with crooked lines. Endings Any watershed moment must exist as a confluence of terrible forces and fates, all of it ambiguous finally, never quite knowable, at least in any slide-rule way. What if Montgomery hadn't had such a long history of female black activism, due in large part to progressive-minded teachers at Alabama State University like Jo Ann Robinson? ASU is a distinguished black college. Robinson, then a member of the English Department, headed the all-important Women's Political Council. What if Joe Azbel, the white city editor of the Advertiser, who wrote the first boycott stories, hadn't been so evenhanded in his reporting? The denunciatory editorials flowing out of Montgomery's two white-owned newspapers that year were far from evenhanded. What if Fred D. Gray hadn't just come back from law school in Cleveland to practice in his hometown? There were only two black attorneys in Montgomery in 1955, and Gray was willing to take Rosa Parks's case, with all its legal risks. He also represented Martin Luther King Jr. in his first court battles. Gray lives in nearby Tuskegee now, and is wealthy, and is said by some to be the most famous unfamous attorney in America. Back then his office was over top of a Sears Auto & Tire. When you ask if things are much different now in Montgomery and in Alabama, he says, not pulling back on it: "We have black elected officials now. We have integration in the schools ... But the basic policy of the city of Montgomery, as far as I'm concerned, is substantially what it was in 1954 and 1955. They never do any more than they are absolutely required to do. They do the minimum." And what if Rufus Lewis hadn't married into the undertaking business? Then the car pool might not have gotten going so fast. Ross-Clayton Funeral Home had access to vehicles, and Rufus Lewis became the boycott's transportation chairman. He's old now and his short-term memory is gone. Nobody who knows him calls him Rufus; they call him "Coach." That's what he was at Alabama State. You can find him any day of the week in the rear of Tom Wright's Auto Parts. Tom Wright, who looks after Coach, is representative of the rising black middle class in Montgomery. Coach is watching TV. Tom Wright, half his age, has just mentioned that he once met the guy who put Rosa Parks off. Rufus Lewis's face is flecked with white whiskers. He's wearing wingtips and a camouflage hunting cap and a madras sport coat. His eyes are like burning agates. The skin on his skull must have a lightbox under it -- it's almost transparent, and the texture of it is like parchment. The old man is leaning into this just-said thing, trying to imagine it, decipher it. "What's that again, Tom?" "I said I met him once, Coach, I met that bus driver." Coach: "You know, I bet he wasn't such a bad guy, was he?" Wright: "He was a nice guy, matter of fact. I was working at a car lot. I guess it was 10 or 15 years ago. I remember him as a real nice individual. I think I must have had three or four conversations with him. He didn't treat me like he had 'nigger' under his breath. 'Course, I've met some stone Klansmen who've seemed pretty nice too. It's awful hard to tell sometimes. But what I'm saying is this man didn't treat me badly at all. Then later somebody told me he was the guy who got Rosa Parks jailed and started the whole thing." Coach: "Don't you reckon it just crushes him? It shocks him. It hurts his mind. He don't know how to cope with it. I don't think I've ever thought much about him. He thought he was doing the right thing. He may have been doing what his people thought he should be doing. It must be kind of a situation where you're about half afraid of not doing what you think you're supposed to do. You reckon that's it?" "I reckon that's it," says Tom Wright. "I don't think bad of him now," says Coach. "Neither do I," says Tom Wright. The South is a deeply layered place. An outsider makes judgments about it at his risk. Things are ever more complex than they seem. Suddenly you decide to take another route and try to reach a retired driver's son. What light might he have to shed? This son's name is James E. Blake. He is an accountant at Aldridge and Borden. He is a Christian, he goes to church on Wednesday nights, he attends his son's baseball games on Thursday nights. He tells you all this on the phone, nervously, in a gentle voice, both Southern and not Southern, and then he says: "But I will have to honor my father in this matter. It's been over a long time. He wants his peace about it. We never really talked about it much at home. My father is one of the last of the old-time men from the company who are alive now. I think you'll find his role was quite important in the ramifications of what happened, but almost negligible otherwise. He just happened to be the driver." Blurted, from the other end of the line: So was he a good father? "Could I have just told you what I just did and not think him a good father? Of course he was." The next day the son leaves a message that he has been instructed by his father not to talk of it any further. He says he must honor his father in this matter. He is very sorry. Some days later yet another small turnaround fact comes to light: In 1943, 12 years before black history altered and the Montgomery Bus Boycott commenced, Rosa L. Parks was made to get off a city bus after she had put in her fare. Before she could reboard at the rear, the doors slammed shut and the bus jerked into gear and left her there on the curb. The driver of that bus was James F. Blake.