On the fateful day Rosa Parks stepped onto his bus, James Blake had been driving for Montgomery City Lines for 13 years, save for two years he spent in the military in Europe. He would drive for 19 more before retiring in 1974. A native of Seman, Alabama, who left school after the ninth grade, Blake was bitter about his place in the history books, telling a Washington Post reporter in 1989, “I wasn’t trying to do anything to that Parks woman except do my job.” Blake died in 2002.
The man who sentenced Parks to a $10 fine and court costs, Recorder’s Court Judge John B. Scott, served 35 years on the bench, beginning when he was about 21. “I know he started growing a mustache to try to look older,” says Scott’s son John, who still lives in Montgomery. The younger Scott tells the Voice his dad never discussed the Parks case. “At the time, people didn’t realize that this is something that was going to blossom into significance,” he says. Scott died in 1978 at age 71.
The prosecutor in the case, Eugene Loe, succeeded Scott to the bench and died years ago, according to University of Michigan professor J. Mills Thornton, a historian of the civil rights era. The judge who heard Parks’s appeal, Eugene Carter, is also gone. The cops who arrested Parks, Fletcher B. Day and Dempsey W. Mixon, could not be located, although Thornton says they were alive recently.
What about the white dude who wanted Parks’s seat? “There were a number of standing white people waiting for seats and people on the sidewalk,” Thornton says. Thus, no single white person was the reason for the order to Parks to move back. There were a lot of ’em.