Back to Contents
King and the MIA leaders—including Abernathy, Jo Ann Robinson,1 and attorney Fred D. Gray—wired this letter to National City Lines in Chicago, owner of the Montgomery bus franchise, after an unsuccessful meeting with city commissioners and local bus company officials. The officials had refused to change bus segregation policies, insisting they were required by law; King countered that they could be modified within the existing segregation laws. National City Lines vice president Kenneth E. Totten arrived in Montgomery the following week.
To The National City Lines, Inc.
616 South Michigan Ave., Chicago, Ill.
Over a period of years the Negro passengers on the Montgomery City Lines, Inc. have been subjected to humiliation, threats, intimidation, and death through bus driver action.
The Negro has been inconvenienced in the use of the city bus lines by the operators in all instances in which the bus has been crowded. He has been forced to give up his seat if a white person has been standing.
Repeated conferences with the bus officials have met with failure. Today a meeting was held with Mr. J. H. Bagley and Attorney Jack Crenshaw as representatives of the bus company, and Mayor W. A. Gayle and Associate Commissioners Frank Parks and Clyde Sellers.2 At which time as an attempt to end the Monday through Thursday protest, the following three proposals were made:
- Courteous treatment by bus drivers.
- Seating of Negro passengers from rear to front of bus, and white passengers from front to rear on “first-come-first-serve basis with no seats reserved for any race.
- Employment of Negro bus operators in predominantly Negro residential sections.
The above proposals, and the resolutions which will follow, were drafted and adopted in a mass meeting of more than 5,000 regular bus riders.3 These proposals were denied in the meeting with the city officials and representatives of the bus company.
Since 44% of the city’s population is Negro, and since 75% of the bus riders are Negro, we urge you to send a representative to Montgomery to arbitrate.
The Montgomery Improvement Association
The Rev. M. L. King, Pres.
The Rev. U. J. Fields, Sec’y.
TLc. MLW-MBU: Box 6.
1. Jo Ann Gibson Robinson (1912-1992), born in Culloden, Georgia, earned her B.S. at Georgia State College and taught in Macon’s public schools for five years. She received her M.A. (1948) at Atlanta University and became chair of the English department at Mary Ann College in Crockett, Texas. In 1949 Robinson joined the faculty of Alabama State College. That year an experience on a Montgomery bus provoked her to lead the Women’s Political Council (WPC) in demanding that city officials provide better bus service for African Americans. She became president of the WPC in 1950. After Rosa Parks’s arrest, Robinson utilized elements of a plan for a bus boycott drawn up by the WC months before. An MIA executive board member, Robinson served on all the MIA’s major committees and edited the monthly newsletter. She was also indicted for her role in the bus boycott. For Robinson’s account of the boycott, see The Montgomery Bus Boycott and the Women Who Started It: The Memoir of Jo Ann Gibson Robinson, ed. David J. Garrow (1987).
2. See also Minutes, meeting between contact committee of MIA and city and bus officials, 8 December 1955. James H. Bagley, a Harvard Law School graduate, was manager of the Montgomery City Lines. Jack Crenshaw, a former president of the Montgomery Bar Association, served as legal representative of the Montgomery City Lines during the Montgomery bus boycott. William A. “Tacky” Gayle (1895-1969), born in Montgomery, was commissioner for public works from 1935 until 1951, when he became: mayor; he was defeated in 1959 after serving two terms in office. Franklin Warren Parks (1898-1966), owner of a decorating business, was Montgomery’s public works commissioner from 1955 until his death. Clyde Chapman Sellers (1908-1976) had been director of the state highway patrol and a Alabama state legislator before serving one term as Montgomery’s public safety commissioner.
3. The resolutions ratified on 5 December 1955 did not specifically approve the three demands.
National City Lines, Inc. (NCL) was a public transportation company[dubious– discuss]. The company grew out of the Fitzgerald brothers' bus operations, founded in Minnesota, United States in 1920 as a modest local transport company operating two buses. Part of the Fitzgerald's operations were reorganized into a holding company in 1936, and later expanded about 1938 with equity funding from General Motors, Firestone Tire, Standard Oil of California and Phillips Petroleum for the express purpose of acquiring local transit systems throughout the United States in what became known as the General Motors streetcar conspiracy. The company formed a subsidiary, Pacific City Lines in 1937 to purchase streetcar systems in the western United States. National City Lines, and Pacific City Lines were indicted in 1947 on charges of conspiring to acquire control of a number of transit companies, and of forming a transportation monopoly for the purpose of 'Conspiring to monopolize sales of buses and supplies to companies owned by National City Lines'. They were acquitted on the first charge but not the second in 1949.
The company has roots back to 1920, when Roy Fitzgerald operating two buses in Minnesota[n 1] by E. Roy Fitzgerald and his brother transporting miners and schoolchildren. In 1936 the company was organized into a holding company.[n 2] In 1938, National City Lines wished to purchase transportation systems in cities "where street cars were no longer practicable" and replace them with passenger buses. To fund this expansion the company obtained equity funding from companies seeking to increase sales of commercial buses and supplies, including General Motors, Firestone Tire, Standard Oil of California and Phillips Petroleum.[n 3]
In 1936, they bought 13 transit companies in Illinois, Oklahoma and Michigan, then in 1937, they replaced streetcars in Butte, Montana and made purchases in Mississippi and Texas. Sometimes these systems were already run down, but not always. Major investment had recently been made with improvements to the streetcars systems in Beaumont, Texas. The Butte system, while sound, deliberately replaced to lower the load on the overtaxed electric system, which was primarily used for commercial uses, including electrolytic refining of copper and zinc.
In 1938 the company entered into exclusive dealing arrangements and obtained equity funding from companies seeking to increase sales of commercial buses and supplies, including General Motors, Firestone Tire, Standard Oil of California and Phillips Petroleum. The company was indicted in 1947 and was later convicted in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois of conspiring to monopolize the sale of buses and related products to the local transit companies that they controlled.
Over 1938 and 1939 the company made purchases in Alabama, Indiana and Ohio. and by 1939, it owned or controlled 29 local transportation companies in 27 different cities in 10 states.[n 1]
American City Lines, which had been organized to acquire local transportation systems in the larger metropolitan areas in various parts of the country in 1943 merged with NCL in 1946.[n 2] By 1947 the company owned or controlled 46 systems in 45 cities in 16 states.[n 4]
In 1947 National City Lines, with others was indicted in the Federal District Court of Southern California on two counts: 'conspiring to acquire control of a number of transit companies, forming a transportation monopolize' and 'Conspiring to monopolize sales of buses and supplies to companies owned by National City Lines' in what became known as the Great American streetcar scandal (or 'General Motors streetcar conspiracy', 'National City Lines conspiracy').[n 5]
In 1948, the United States Supreme Court (in United States v. National City Lines Inc.) permitted a change in venue to the Federal District Court in Northern Illinois. National City Lines merged with Pacific City Lines the same year.
In 1949, General Motors, Standard Oil of California, Firestone and others were convicted of conspiring to monopolize the sale of buses and related products to local transit companies controlled by NCL and other companies; they were acquitted of conspiring to monopolize the ownership of these companies. The verdicts were upheld on appeal in 1951.[n 6] The corporations involved were fined $5000, their executives $1 apiece.
Operating areas and companies
There is considerable uncertainty and variability amongst sources as to where National City Lines operated.[dubious– discuss]
The 1948 ruling stated that:
"Forty-four cities in sixteen states are included. The states are as widely scattered as California, Florida, Maryland, Michigan, Nebraska, Texas and Washington. The larger local transportation systems include those of Baltimore, St. Louis, Salt Lake City, Los Angeles and Oakland. The largest concentrations of smaller systems are in Illinois, with eleven cities; California with nine (excluding Los Angeles); and Michigan with four. The local operating companies were not named as parties defendant."
This table attempts to bring together the many sources detailing the cities in which, at one time or another, National City Lines owned or controlled transit companies. A star (*) indicates that NCL is understood to have had significant control but not ownership:
- Alabama: Mobile, Montgomery
- California: Burbank, Eureka,Fresno, Glendale,Los Angeles*,Oakland*, Sacramento, Inglewood, Long Beach, San Jose, Pasadena, Stockton
- Florida: Tampa, Jacksonville*
- Illinois: Aurora/Elgin, Bloomington, Champaign, Danville, East St. Louis, Decatur, Galesburg, Joliet, Kewanee, LaSalle/Peru, Peoria, Quincy, Rock Island
- Indiana: South Bend, Terre Haute
- Iowa: Burlington,Davenport,Cedar Rapids, Ottumwa, Sioux City
- Maryland: Baltimore*
- Michigan: Jackson, Lansing, Kalamazoo, Saginaw, Pontiac
- Mississippi: Jackson
- Missouri: St. Louis*
- Montana: Butte, Great Falls
- Nebraska: Lincoln
- Ohio: Canton, Portsmouth
- Oklahoma: Tulsa
- Pennsylvania: Philadelphia*
- Texas: Beaumont, El Paso, Houston, Port Arthur, Wichita Falls
- Utah: Salt Lake City
- Washington: Bellingham, Everett, Spokane
- Wisconsin: Oshkosh
Additional information: In Los Angeles the Los Angeles Railway (Yellow Cars) was controlled by NCL but not Pacific Electric Railway (Red Cars)
National City Lines and the Montgomery Bus Boycott
Rosa Parks was arrested for refusing to move to the back of the bus operated by Montgomery Bus Lines, bus #2857, a subsidiary of a National City Lines on 1 December 1955 which led to the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Montgomery Improvement Association wired a letter to National City Lines on 8 December 1955 and the company's vice president. Kenneth E. Totten traveled to Montgomery the following week. The boycott lasted for just over a year and ended only after a successful ruling by the Supreme Court that allowed black bus passengers to sit anywhere they wanted.
National City Lines acquired the trucking company Los Angeles-Seattle Motor Express (LASME) in 1959. In 1968, LASME merged with DC International and T.I.M.E. to form T.I.M.E.-DC.
National City Lines was later acquired by Harold C. Simmons early in 1981. T.I.M.E.-DC ceased operations in 1988. The company continued as a fully controlled subsidiary of Simmon' Contran operation until December 31, 2007, when it was dissolved.
- See reference section below for source documents relating to these notes and for further references
- ^ abUnited States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit (1951), para 6 "It is undisputed that on April 1, 1939, defendant National City Lines, Inc., had grown from an humble beginning in 1920, consisting of the ownership and operation of two second-hand buses in Minnesota, to ownership or control of 29 local operating transportation companies located in 27 different cities in 10 states."
- ^ abUnited States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit (1951), para 8 "National City Lines, organized in 1936, as a holding company to acquire and operate local transit companies, had brought, up to the time when the contracts were executed, its necessary equipment and fuel products from different suppliers, with no long-term contract with any of them. Pacific City Lines was organized for the purpose of acquiring local transit companies on the Pacific Coast and commenced doing business in January 1938. American was organized to acquire local transportation systems in the larger metropolitan areas in various parts of the country in 1943. It merged with National in 1946."
- ^United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit (1951), para 9 "In 1938, National conceived the idea of purchasing transportation systems in cities where street cars were no longer practicable and supplanting the latter with passenger buses. Its capital was limited and its earlier experience in public financing convinced it that it could not successfully finance the purchase of an increasing number of operating companies in various parts of the United States by such means. Accordingly it devised the plan of procuring funds from manufacturing companies whose products its operating companies were using constantly in their business. National approached General Motors, which manufactures buses and delivers them to the various sections of the United States. It approached Firestone, whose business of manufacturing and supplying tires extends likewise throughout the nation. In the middle west, where a large part of its operating subsidiaries were to be located, it solicited investment of funds from Phillips, which operates throughout that section but not on the east or west coast. Pacific undertook the procurement of funds from General Motors and Firestone and also from Standard Oil of California, which operates on the Pacific coast. Mack Truck Company was also solicited. Eventually each of the suppliers entered into a contract with City Lines defendants of the character we have described whereby City Lines companies agreed that they would buy their exclusive requirements from the contracting supplier and from no one else."
- ^United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit (1951), para 6 "At the time the indictment was returned, the City Lines defendants had expanded their ownership or control to 46 transportation systems located in 45 cities in 16 states.."
- ^United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit (1951), para 1, "On April 9, 1947, nine corporations and seven individuals, constituting officers and directors of certain of the corporate defendants, were indicted on two counts, the second of which charged them with conspiring to monopolize certain portions of interstate commerce, in violation of Section 2 of the Anti-trust Act, 15 U.S.C.A. § 2."
- ^United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit (1951), para 33, "We have considered carefully all the evidence offered and excluded. We think that the court's rulings were fair, and that, having permitted great latitude in admitting testimony as to intent, purpose and reasons for the making of the contracts, the court, in its discretion, was entirely justified in excluding the additional testimony offered."
- Documents referenced from 'Notes' section
- ^ abRev. M. L. King; Rev. U. J. Fields. "8 December 1955 To the National City Lines, Inc. Montgomery, Ala". Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Global Freedom Struggle. Stanford University. Retrieved 6 July 2010.
- ^"Paving the Way for Buses – The Great GM Streetcar Conspiracy Part II - The Plot Clots".
- ^ abc"The Conspiracy Revisited Rebutted".
- ^"Taken for a Ride". CultureChange.
- ^"GM and the Red Cars".
- ^"United States v. National City Lines, 334 U.S. 573 (1948)". FindLaw. 1948.
- ^"Paving the Way for Buses – The Great GM Streetcar Conspiracy Part II - The Plot Clots".
- ^Snell, Bradford C. (1974). American ground transport: a proposal for restructuring the automobile, truck, bus, and rail industries. Washington: U.S. Govt. Print. Off. p. 103.
- ^ abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyzaaabacadaeafagahaiajakalamanaoapaqarasatauavawaxayazbabb"Cities Served by National City Lines". Retrieved August 23, 2012.
- ^ abcSnell, Bradford. "The StreetCar Conspiracy: How General Motors Deliberately Destroyed Public Transit". Lovearth Network. Retrieved 6 July 2010.
- ^"When Trains Ruled the East Bay". Oakland Magazine.
- ^ ab"The Third Chance was charm".
- ^"Philadelphia Trolley Routes: By The Numbers". phillytrolley.
- ^Salt Lake City Lines
- ^Geddes, Phil (July 1969). "21+20+78=4". Commercial Car Journal. 117: 86–91.
- ^"National City control passes to Dallas investor". Commercial Carrier Journal. Radnor, PA: Chilton. 38: 40. Jan 1981. Retrieved 13 January 2016.
- ^MOUNTING LOSSES FORCE T.I.M.E.-DC TO SHUT DOORS