In 1966, a man killed civil-rights leader Rev. Robert Spike. Was it an assassination? Was it simply murder? Paul Spike attempts to rescue his father and himself with the truth.
As director of the National Council of Churches, Robert Spike had organized white-dominated churches to support the passage of both the Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act. Collaborating with major civil rights leaders on strategy, he helped the LBJ White House craft legislation and the President's civil rights speeches, especially on the Voting Rights Act. After he had stepped away from the political arena, he was viciously murdered in Columbus, Ohio. The murder was never solved. Very little effort went into finding the murderer. The Columbus police and the FBI hinted the unsolved murder was the brutal end of a gay relationship.
During his father's rise in the civil rights movement, Paul Spike lived a life eerily similar to Holden Caulfield's—a young intellectual lost in the labyrinth of booze, drugs, and girls. At Columbia University, he was on the fringes of the S.D.S. Movement. That rootless life ended with his father's murder.
In the Afterword of this re-issue of Photographs of My Father, Paul Spike says, "Murder is an indelible stain on a family. It never fades. This book I wrote about my father's murder was an attempt to rescue him and myself with the truth. Of course, that was not going to work like I hoped when I was 23 years old. It doesn't matter. I still believe the hard truth can rescue us from the easy delusions of our political history and that is why I want Photographs of My Father—and the truths I learned after this book was first published—to be read today. Now, after almost 50 years, I understand why I tried to do this. And why I left America. I still dream of justice for my father."
The complete text of Martin Luther King's telegram to Robert Spike's widow and two sons—
"Deeply saddened to learn of the death of our dear friend Bob Spike. His death comes as a great loss to the nation and to the fellowship of the committed. He was one of those rare individuals who sought at every point to make religion relevant to the social issues of our time. He lifted religion from the stagnant arena of pious irrelevancies and sanctimonious trivialities. His brilliant and dedicated work in the National Council of Churches will be an inspiration to generations yet unborn. We will always remember his unswerving dedication to the legitimate aspirations of oppressed people for freedom and human dignity. It was my personal pleasure and sacred privilege to work closely with him in various undertakings as we continue to grapple with the ancient evils of man's inhumanity to man. We will be sustained and consoled by Bob's dedicated spirit. Please know that we share your grief at this moment and you have our deepest sympathy and most passionate prayers for strength and guidance in these trying moments."