King on Trial
LESS THAN A MONTH after the mass arrests, on March 19 at 11 A.M., Circuit Judge Eugene Carter called the court to order. He asked, "Which case are you going to try first?"
The largest courtroom in the old courthouse on Washington Street was filled with spectators, witnesses, and representatives of the press. Circuit solicitor William Thetford, a mature, seasoned prosecutor, was flanked by his two assistants, Robert B. Stewart, a veteran attorney best known at the time for having been Hank Williams's personal lawyer, and young Maury D. Smith, who would become well known as a tenacious and hardworking lawyer in the solicitor's office and, later, in private practice. Thetford answered, "The King case." It was styled The State of Alabama v. M. L. King, Jr.
Heading the defense was Arthur D. Shores, a distinguished black lawyer from Birmingham who was already at the forefront of civil rights litigation. Dressed in a black pinstriped three-piece suit, he was tall, and touches of gray ribboned his wavy hair and a perfectly trimmed thin mustache. Shores, a former high school principal, was known throughout the South as