The `Quiet Strength' of Rosa Parks Civil Rights Figure Remembers Alabama Bus Protest and Martin Luther King

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`HE always told me I was as close to him as a telephone if I ever needed him," says Rosa Parks in remembering Martin Luther King Jr. from the tense, dangerous days in Montgomery, Ala., in 1955.No two names have more historical meaning than Dr. King's and Mrs. Parks's in the Montgomery bus strike, which is acknowledged as the protest that triggered the civil rights movement in the South. Monday is Martin Luther King Day. Now a gentle octogenarian, Parks remembers seeing King for the first time. "It was in August of 1955," she says in a telephone interview. "He came to speak at the Montgomery branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). It was just a regular meeting, and he wasn't well known then, but he was so eloquent and said we all had to work together to improve our lives."At the time, Parks was married and working as a tailor's assistant in a downtown department store. For 10 cents she usually rode the bus home each day. But on the first day of December in 1955, she sat in the first seat just behind the section reserved for whites. As more and more whites got on the bus, the driver ordered Parks to give up her seat, which meant she would have to stand.

`I HAD made up my mind quickly," says Parks. Contrary to the impression that her feet were tired, and that the NAACP had planned the event, she refused to move because she was "tired of being pushed around, tired of the Jim Crow laws, tired of being oppressed. I was just plain tired."In her book, "Quiet Strength," just published by Zondervan House, she says, "I felt the Lord would give me the strength to endure whatever I had to face. God did away with all my fear. It was time for someone to stand up - or in my case, sit down. I refused to move."She was arrested and put in jail for a few hours, and later had a $10 fine returned to her.With King's leadership, the black community, mustering its strength in numbers, successfully boycotted the bus line for 381 days. …