BIRMINGHAM, Ala.- A former Alabama motel was once the only place black visitors could stay in the city of Birmingham.
“I had my high school football banquets in there, and even after I got to be an adult, I occasionally came to the lounge,” says Birmingham Resource Center Executive Director Bob Dickerson.
Dickerson reflects on days gone by at The A.G. Gaston Motel.
Dr. Gaston hired Dickerson to work at his bank, Citizens Federal, in 1984.
“I wasn’t an important part of his life and his business, but he was such a vital part of mine,” says Dickerson.
It was a time of deep segregation in the South.
When Gaston opened the motel in 1954, it was the only place black entertainers and black visitors could stay in Birmingham.
“This was the place you think about history, World history was made here,” Dickerson says. “You’ve got to think about the meetings there, you’ve got to think about the courage folks had when they were in these rooms and knowing folks that day didn’t have a problem setting off a few of dynamite.”
A pair of bombs exploded on May 11, 1963, destroying part of the motel.
The motel is crumbling, shattered and in disrepair, but finally, it’s slated for renovations as part of the Birmingham Civil Rights National Monument.
“I’m really encouraged about what’s going to happen,” says Dickerson. “It’s sad to see it in disrepair, but it’s still standing, and I think we have to take some solace and happiness in that.”