Ghosts one of event’s highlights

Published 12:00 am Sunday, March 20, 2005

Just as the sun was beginning to set on Selma, ghosts from the city’s past rose once again from their graves to tell their stories.

Surrounded by graveyard visitors from across the country this weekend, a few of Selma’s legendary former residents recalled their lives and the history of the city they had come to love.

The ghost of Vice President William Rufus King was the first stop on the Pilgrimage Ghost Tour at Old Live Oak Cemetery. Greeting visitors in his top hat and tails, King talked about his lustrous political career and how he was the one who gave Selma its name.

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“I enjoyed the power, duty and prestige of being Vice President,” King told his audience.

King also reminded his guests about his unique distinction of being the only Vice President in history to be sworn into office while on foreign soil.

Sitting just across from King, looking off in the director of his church, was the Rev. Arthur Small of First Presbyterian Church.

Small told his guests about the day he took up arms against the invading Union Soldiers and met his tragic demise.

“Now I hear that the pastor of my church is a Yankee carpetbagger,” Small said. “I asked all of you to pray very hard for my congregation.”

Guest of the tour were then led to the gravesite of Sen. Edmund Pettus, who gave an emotional re-telling of the day when he received a hero’s welcome after being elected to the Senate.

“Selma may not have been ruled with an iron fist, but it had a velvet glove,” he said.

Dr. Albert Mabry told guest that he moved to Selma after hearing that “everything you touch here turns to gold.”

“Dallas County was the richest county in the nation at that time,” Mabry said.

The doctor also recalled how the city was almost wiped out by a yellow fever epidemic and his involvement in finding a cure for the disease.

The barefooted William Hendree, “Boy Poet of Selma,” read his visitors one of his poems written shortly before he died.

Two other outstanding former members of the Selma community, Congressman Benjamin Turner and educator Sophia P. Kingston, were also on the tour.

Both talked of how they overcame the obstacles of race and poverty to find success.

Turner became the richest black man in Selma and Kingston founded a school in East Selma.

Winston Williams, who portrayed Turner, said he had an “excellent” time being a part of the Ghost Tour.

“It’s nice to remind ourselves that everything in the past wasn’t all gloomy,” Williams said. “There were lots of interesting things and interesting relationships.”

Yvonne Haughton, a resident of Brooklyn, NY, said she had a fun time visiting with the ghosts of Selma.

“It was really great,” she said. “I came here to visit my friends, whose house is in the Pilgrimage tour. I’ve seeing all the sights in Selma.”

Kitti Windham, organizer of the Ghost Tour, said the event was a popular one this year.

“We’ve had a huge crowd. People haven’t stopped coming.”

Once the sky over Selma got dark, the ghosts of Selma slowly returned to their graves.