Since then tensions between Councilman Williams and the Mayors Skipper have grown. For example, a December 2012 meeting descended into a shouting match as the council refused to engage with city business introduced by Williams. At one point Skipper interrupted Williams and said, before the mostly black residents, “look around, how many whites do you see here? How many yellows? How many greens do you see? How many people do you see in here? Did you come for answers or did you come for an argument with the mayor and city council?”
Skipper threatened to dismiss residents who clapped for Williams when he said he worked for the city “not for you”, and also threatened to have Williams barred from Town Hall. (There’s video if you need to see the disrespect to believe it.) In another occasion Williams was arrested for disorderly conduct at a meeting. City residents have also been charged with that and harassment following attempts to air their grievances at town hall and city council meetings.
In February 2016, Williams accused Virgil Skipper in a press conference of racial mistreatment of city employees. Two days later Skipper resigned, during an ongoing investigation by the Alabama Bureau of Investigations for misuse of city funds. Williams nominated Grimsley as interim mayor, but the rest of the council favored Patsy Skipper. In the citywide election, voters backed Grimsley by a wide margin, 233 to 148. (Again I stress, small town.)
The real story here is Grimsley’s victory, her comeback. From being unceremoniously ousted from a position she held for decades to taking the office of the man who did it to her, that’s the interesting story. Small town Southern whites casually using the N word isn’t. Is it wrong to use the slur? Absolutely. But the attitudes behind it, reflected in the obvious contempt towards Williams, in the devaluing of Grimsley’s record of public service, in the arrests of engaged citizens, are the bigger problem. And those attitudes are mostly held by people who don’t twirl their mustaches while using racial slurs.
Whether Skipper typed it, as I strongly suspect, or she was indeed hacked, someone believed that a public servant with 23 years experience in local government was inherently unfit for office because of her race. Her comeback was erased in the outrage and more ink has been spilled quoting Skipper’s denial than anything Grimsley might have to say about being the city’s first black mayor.