Marion, Alabama civil rights tour: Coretta Scott King’s hometown and the murder of Jimmie Lee Jackson
Tiny Marion, Alabama, is a small country town that plays an out-sized role in civil rights history.
Coretta Scott King’s hometown, it’s located 30 miles north of Selma on AL 45. It’s where Martin Luther King Jr., was married, and where Jimmie Lee Jackson lived and died, leading to the Selma-to-Montgomery march.
In February 1965, Jackson, a 26-year-old veteran and church deacon was gunned down by state police during a peaceful protest. The group, which included Jackson’s mother and younger sister were marching to the county jail where Birmingham pastor James Orange was being held for trying to register voters. Today, a marker outside the jail remembers the civil rights leader. But keep quiet: a sign warns visitors not to talk to inmates.
Local residents were afraid Orange was going to be lynched, which led to the night-time protest.
Sometime during the confrontation, the street lights went out, and police began beating protesters and journalists. Jackson and his family fled into a cafe, where they were beaten and shot by police. Eight days later, he died.
The death led to calls for a march to Montgomery to deliver Jackson’s body to the state capitol, which eventually became the Selma to Montgomery march.
Today, you can visit the grave of Jimmie Lee Jackson. It’s located in Heard Cemetery, about a 3.5 miles east of town on the south (right) side of the road.
Coretta Scott King’s home
Martin Luther King certainly knew Marion and the Selma area.
His wife, Coretta Scott, grew up in the small community of North Perry, north of Marion. The couple, who had met he had met while attending divinity school in Boston, were married at the Mt. Tabor AME Zion Church, which was located next to Scott’s home, where her father ran a grocery.
Today you can follow the Coretta Scott King Memorial Highway (AL 29), and see the church and her family’s home. The church is marked by a larger-than-life-sized monument to Mrs. King.
Nearby, it’s worth taking a trip to the Safe House Museum, where King found shelter from the Klan. It was founded by a childhood friend of Coretta Scott.
Marion’s also near Perry Lakes Park, which has several innovative designs from the Auburn Rural Studios architecture program.
The Alabama Tourism Department offers a free app to guide travelers on the Alabama Civil Rights Trail.
You’ll find many major motel chains in Selma. While options are limited in Marion, there’s a new Sleep Inn motel, 1605 Highway 5, Marion, Alabama 36756
And also Amenities Boutique Bed and Breakfast, 112 E Green Street, Marion, Alabama 36756
Marion is not far from Greensboro, home to the famed Pie Lab, a James Beard-Award winning restaurant and community-supported project. With savory and sweet pies, you really can’t go wrong. These have been called the best pies in the south. You can even order pies for shipping.
Willard’s Original BBQ, 12267 Highway 5, Marion, Alabama 36756, is a local favorite.
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