Wade on Birmingham

Birmingham’s Biggest Crooks: James Bevel


In August, we’re celebrating Birmingham’s Biggest Crooks, whether they be liars, thieves, extortionists, swindlers or thugs. Running daily until Birmingham mayor Larry Langford’s Aug. 31 federal trial. Thanks to Bhamwiki for helping with this project.

James Bevel

James BevelPositions held: minister; member of U.S. Navy; aide to Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.; Alabama project coordinator for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

He suggested to King that children participate in the civil rights marches in Birmingham. The move eventually led to the police’s use of fire hoses and dogs to turn away protesters from Kelly Ingram Park.

Wanted for: incest

Date of conviction: April 2008

Sentence: 15 years in prison, but was out on bond because of poor health and died Dec. 19.

Criminally fun fact: Bevel was born in Itta Bena, Miss., to a sharecropping family and had 16 siblings. He fathered 16 children among nine women, and married four times.

His erratic behavior included: declaring himself a prophet in a hotel room and asking college students to drink his urine as a loyalty test; supporting claims of innocence by James Earl Ray, King’s assassin; and running for vice president in 1992 with presidential candidate Lyndon LaRouche Jr.

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