By Florence Borders
Creator: Society of St. Edmund
Extent: 0.8 Linear Feet
Date Acquired: 01/01/1972
The papers of the Edmundite Missions contain correspondence, clippings, invitations, notes, photographs, press releases, programs, and collected items. The bulk of the material focuses on a brief but highly fertile period in the mid-60s. Because of the location of the church, hospital, etc. in Selma, and because of the particular emphasis of the order on work among southern Blacks, the papers document some of the turbulence that characterized the time and the locale. Furthermore, the order's involvement in one aspect of the Civil Rights Movement is well presented in the collection.
Correspondence has been interpreted to include traditional items in this category; however, printed letters which appeared in "The Selma Times Journal" as letters to the editor or in the "Letter Box" column have been referenced in the Index of Correspondence because they were occasioned by Father Maurice Ouellet. Similarly, the American Friends reprint of "Letter from a Birmingham City Jail" that was written by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. has been referenced in the Index. These items contain important data for interpretation of ideas expressed by Selma citizens who verbalized their thoughts and promulgated them via the local press. Dr. King's letter was a carefully reasoned response to six members of the clergy who did not share his views on methods of achieving certain objectives. Since the epistolary form was utilized by both as a method of communication rather than as literary innovation, it is anticipated that referencing this item in the Index will facilitate research.
Of particular interest in the correspondence is a form letter sent to prospective participants in the march on the Dallas County courthouse. The letter contains pertinent instructions and information related to the March. Another item of interest is a handwritten message from Father Ouellet to his successor in Alabama, Father John Crowley. Enclosed with this letter was a photocopy of an article resulting from a talk given in Washington, entitled "The Forgotten Ones."
The clippings and press releases pertain to Good Samaritan Hospital, the Selma-Montgomery March and its aftermath, the transferal of Father Ouellet, and his post-Selma activities. A majority of the articles are from the Catholic press. Of those from the secular papers, few are from newspapers outside of Alabama. While numerous clippings would find avid readers in any group of students of the Civil Rights Movement, there would be something of interest too for the ecumenical in spirit. A few of the clippings pertain to the Cardinal Spellman gift of $10,000 to Good Samaritan Hospital in memory of Rev. James J. Reeb, a Unitarian minister from Boston who was fatally beaten in Selma. The work of the Edmundites, in conjunction with the Sisters of St. Joseph, from Rochester, is primarily documented in the news clippings.
With the exception of an invitation and a program, there is no record of the hospital's school of practical nursing included in these papers, except in the news clippings. "The Selma Times Journal" (October 11, 1970) carried a photo of the last class to graduate from the school. Furthermore, previous photos and articles on the various classes in the school's history had appeared in the paper.
Demonstrations, sit-ins, and marches had played a prominent role in highlighting institutionalized inequality. That Selma was not bypassed in this type of confrontation is evidenced in some of the news clippings included in the collection. Major emphasis is given to Selma-Montgomery March, and the Good Samaritan Hospital was involved as the only agency to which injured blacks could go for medical help.
The continued involvement of the Edmundites in matters pertaining to civil rights and human rights in the South is evidenced in a small group of collected items including periodicals, conference materials, packets, and reports. The esteem of the Selma members of the order for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is apparent in the collected items by and about the civil rights leader. A packet containing the Civil Rights Act of the 1964 and 1967 is among this body of materials. The periodicals are generally those of other religious groups, usually having some relationship to mission work or to the Christian challenge of universal brotherhood.
Within the span of two years, Edmundites attended meetings of the National Council of Catholic Men and a conference for Southern Catholic Leaders, both of which addressed themselves to the dominant issue of civil rights. The interest was more than a passing one. The Edmundites and their co-workers, the Sisters of St. Joseph, had staked a claim in Selma by organizing and staffing a hospital, a school, and a nursing home, as well as by organizing and directing clubs for boys and girls. The priests, brothers, and sisters engaged in activities which paved the way for participation of Selma's black population in numerous affairs. This interest is manifested to no small degree in the kind of items included in the collection.
Several articles in the collection command attention. Among these are Father Crowley's "The Path to Peace in Selma," Stanley Scott, Jr.'s "Revolution: the Assault on Selma," and Pulitizer Prize winner Haynes Johnson's "The Vote in Selma- What It Promises."
Obviously, from the foregoing statements, it can be deduced that the papers do not detail the history of the order; nor do they relate, in more than an incidental manner, the day to day activities of the Edmundites from the time they established their first mission in Selma in 1937. What the papers do contain is a highlight of an important period characterized by a determined march toward fuller freedom. They show what one relatively small order of priests contributed and how they found it possible to improvise and implement programs for the amelioration of life in the section of the country where they had chosen to work. Not even all of the southern missions of the order figure prominently in the papers. The emphasis is on Selma; the materials are highly concentrated in the period from 1963-1965, and the dominant theme is civil rights. An underlying theme is urbanization.
Names include Ralph David Abernathy, James G. Clark, Jr., John P. Crowley, Haynes Johnson, Martin Luther King, Jr., Sister Michael Ann, Maurice Ouellet, and Stanley Scott, Jr.
In 1937, two Catholic priests of the Society of St. Edmund arrived in Selma, Alabama to help serve the needs of the African American community. During this year, they established the St. Elizabeth Mission which was located within the heart of the city's African American district. Throughout its tenure, the Mission expanded its reach by bringing to the community a grade school, a boys and girls club, Good Samaritan Hospital, a nursing home, and a school of the instruction for practical nurses.
Edmundites under the direction of Father Francis Casey, the first director of the Southern Missions, purchased the frame buildings of the Baptist Good Samaritan Hospital in 1943. Sister Louis Bertrand of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Rochester, New York, was named the first administrator of the hospital. In 1947, the two-story Good Samaritan Hospital was completed under the supervision of Father Norman E. Lambert; thereby establishing a milestone in the care of African Americans in Dallas County and surrounding areas. During this same year, the Don Bosco Boys Club was founded by Father Nelson B. Ziter, the immediate predecessor of Father Mauirce Ouellet. Father Ouellet was assigned to St. Elizabeth’s as pastor and superior of the Edmundites in Selma in 1961.
The Good Samaritan Hospital School of Practical Nursing, believed to be the first of its kind in Alabama, was founded by Sister Louis Bertrand in 1950.
In 1957, under the guidance of Father Eymard Galligan, the Good Samaritan Nursing Home for the Aged and Chronically Ill was added as a wing to the hospital. The 26-bed addition for the elderly replaced Holy Infant Inn, which dated back to 1943.
In 1962, the frame of the Good Samaritan Hospital was demolished. Two years later, the new four story extension of the Good Samaritan Hospital was completed. Sister Michael Ann became hospital administrator and John Wright was named her assistant. Father Crowley became director of the Edmundite Southern Missions, and Father Galligan was elected superior general of the Fathers of St. Edmund.
In 1965, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., then conducting a voter-registration drive in Selma, toured the facility as guest of Father Crowley and Father Galligan. King was presented a plaque in recognition of his outstanding work in race relations. During that same year, President Lyndon B. Johnson sent a commendation to the Good Samaritan Hospital for its role in caring for more than 50 injured African Americans who were praying before beginning the “Walk to Freedom” from Selma to Montgomery. In 1965, Cardinal Spellman presented a check to the hospital in memory of a Unitarian Universalist minister, James J. Reeb, who was fatally beaten in Selma.
The last class of Licensed Practical Nurses (LPN’s) graduated from Good Samaritan Hospital School of Nursing in 1970. In 1971, Father Paul A. Morin, chairman of the board, announced the acceptance of a grant of $35,000 from the RasKob Foundation. Richard Thornader was named administrator of Good Samaritan Hospital in 1972.
Access Restrictions: This collection is open for use.
Use Restrictions: Any copy rights such as the donor may possess in this property are hereby dedicated to the public. It is the responsibility of an author to secure permission for publication from the holder of the copyright to any material contained in this collection.
Acquisition Source: Society of St. Edmund
Acquisition Method: Gift
Appraisal Information: The main topic of this collection is race relations in Selma, Alabama.
Original/Copies Note: Microfilm copes are available for research use.
Preferred Citation: The Society of St. Edmund (Selma, Alabama) records, Amistad Research Center at Tulane University, New Orleans, Louisiana
Processing Information: This collection was completed in August 1974.