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Title: Oral History Interview with Laurie Pritchett, April 23, 1976. Interview B-0027. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007): Electronic Edition.
Author: Pritchett, Laurie, interviewee
Interview conducted by Reston, James
Funding from the Institute of Museum and Library Services supported the electronic publication of this interview.
Text encoded by Mike Millner
Sound recordings digitized by Aaron Smithers Southern Folklife Collection
First edition, 2007
Size of electronic edition: 104 Kb
Publisher: The University Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Chapel Hill, North Carolina
2007.
© This work is the property of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. It may be used freely by individuals for research, teaching and personal use as long as this statement of availability is included in the text.
The electronic edition is a part of the UNC-Chapel Hill digital library, Documenting the American South.
Languages used in the text: English
Revision history:
2007-00-00, Celine Noel and Wanda Gunther revised TEIHeader and created catalog record for the electronic edition.
2007-01-06, Mike Millner finished TEI-conformant encoding and final proofing.
Source(s):
Title of recording: Oral History Interview with Laurie Pritchett, April 23, 1976. Interview B-0027. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Title of series: Series B. Individual Biographies. Southern Oral History Program Collection (B-0027)
Author: James Reston, Jr.
Title of transcript: Oral History Interview with Laurie Pritchett, April 23, 1976. Interview B-0027. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Title of series: Series B. Individual Biographies. Southern Oral History Program Collection (B-0027)
Author: Laurie Pritchett
Description: 110 Mb
Description: 28 p.
Note: Interview conducted on April 23, 1976, by James Reston, Jr.; recorded in South Mount, North Carolina.
Note: Transcribed by Patricia Crowley.
Note: Forms part of: Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007): Series B. Individual Biographies, Manuscripts Department, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Note: Original transcript on deposit at the Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Editorial practices
An audio file with the interview complements this electronic edition.
The text has been entered using double-keying and verified against the original.
The text has been encoded using the recommendations for Level 4 of the TEI in Libraries Guidelines.
Original grammar and spelling have been preserved.
All quotation marks, em dashes and ampersand have been transcribed as entity references.
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Interview with Laurie Pritchett, April 23, 1976.
Interview B-0027. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Pritchett, Laurie, interviewee


Interview Participants

    LAURIE PRITCHETT, interviewee
    JAMES RESTON, interviewer

[TAPE 1, SIDE A]


Page 1
[START OF TAPE 1, SIDE A]
JAMES RESTON:
What I'd like to do first is try to get your mind back on those events, as I understand them. Now I just read an explanation of the Albany thing, and I jotted down a list of events. And you tell me if this is basically how you remember it: that in September of 1961 SNCC sent a team to Albany to register black voters. On November 1, in response to the freedom rides, the Interstate Commerce Commission has a ruling that all train and bus facilities used for interstate commerce are to be desegregated. Almost on that same day, I gather, the first test takes place when two SNCC workers ride from Atlanta to Albany, and the police (including you, I gather) are waiting at the station. And they avoid the test at that time; somehow or another they slip away and run down a street or something. You don't remember that at all?
LAURIE PRITCHETT:
That didn't happen.
JAMES RESTON:
It didn't?
LAURIE PRITCHETT:
No. December 16, 1960 or '61 . . .
JAMES RESTON:
'61, right.
LAURIE PRITCHETT:
Now, the Albany movement started prior to that, which was made up of Dr. W. G. Anderson and local blacks. And they had started trying to deal with the city council; they wouldn't talk with them at that time, you know. So Dr. Anderson (well, he's a real close personal friend of mine), the Tates and Manly Tates, Tennessee B. King, Slater King, his brother, all of them started what they called (it was a loose-knit organization at that time) the Albany Movement. Then Charles Sherrard and some others (I forget), they was with SNCC; they came in. Bonnie Bevonovich—her father was a well-known attorney in New York; I think he handled the

Page 2
Cuban affair—and some other students from Colorado, they came in and joined Sherrard and Jones. And then December 16—they were pushing for fuller restoration, that's what they were—1961 . . . And we had prior knowledge to this, and we knew that they were going to make Albany a vocal point for some reason. And we'd been training for it and getting ready for whatever. On December 16 they came in on the train; and there wasn't two, there was a group of them. And the population had found out about it; they were all down at the train station.
JAMES RESTON:
Yes. Now he's got that listed, yes, as December 10, 1961: "eight SNCC workers, black and white, took Central Georgia Railroad from Atlanta to Albany."
LAURIE PRITCHETT:
It was somewhere around there. It might have been the trial that was on December 16; but somewhere along there . . .
JAMES RESTON:
"Sat together in a white car. Then several hundred Albany blacks gathered at the Union Railway Terminal to meet them. They got off the train, went to the white waiting station and sat down. Chief Pritchett told them to get out. They did, and went to the waiting room." Then he says this about you. He says, "As they were going into the waiting room Chief Pritchett said, ‘I told you to get off the streets. You are all under arrest.’"
LAURIE PRITCHETT:
No.
JAMES RESTON:
And later he quotes your version to the press. "I told the demon|straters to move away from the terminal three times. Then we called the paddy wagon, and I gave the order to arrest them. We will not stand for these trouble-makers coming into our city for the sole purpose of disturbing the peace and quiet in the city of Albany."

Page 3
LAURIE PRITCHETT:
Now that is right. I made that statement. But the arrest resulted from the fact that when they came in, as I say, there was a large group of whites and a large group of blacks in there. And the people who were coming in to pick up passengers and things of this nature couldn't get to the terminal, because they just went into the streets, you know. And we had asked them to disperse out of the streets and onto the sidewalks and the parking lot so that the people could get into taxis and all this business, to pick up passengers. And they refused to do it. And the local blacks moved back; but these people refused to move, and they were arrested. And that's basically what happened.
JAMES RESTON:
Now, when you say that you had tained for it, you knew that they were going to make Albany a focal point, what kind of training do you remember you had at that time?
LAURIE PRITCHETT:
Well, as you remember, we had information that Dr. King was coming into the Albany Movement with the Southern Christian Leadership. And you know his philosophy was non-violence. So we were going on the same philosophy as that. My men would train on non-violence: not that we had police dogs; they were deactivated. The men were instructed that if they were spit upon, cussed, abused in any way of that nature, that they were not to take their billyclubs out. And they would act in a non-violent approach in that. And this is what they did; you know, there was no bloodshed. It went on from '61 to '64, I think June or July of '64. There was never any violence on the part of over-reaction of the police. We arrested Dr. King twice, I think. We arrested some twenty-four hundred people. There was never any violence on our part. In talking to Dr. King (who was a close personal friend of mine) . . . Well, there was Dwight T. Walker, who was with Dr. King at that time (he's a big preacher in New York now),

Page 4
Andrew Young, who was a legislator from Georgia; Dr. Abernathy; all those were there. And we were real close friends; you know, we sat and talked a lot about it. Even after he left there, I went to Montgomery and seen him. We corresponded with each other for a long time; still get Christmas cards from his wife. But anyway, he said many times that this is what turned them around in Albany. His quote is that, as he stated to the New York Times and the Herald Tribune and Newsweek and Time Magazine (all of them that was there), it was non-violent, that there wasn't any violence. The federal troops or marshals couldn't come in; they couldn't have accomplished the goal.
JAMES RESTON:
Yes. OK, let me carry this on a minute here. "December 12: the trial of the eleven." Now who would that have been, the eleven people involved in the original arrests, the December 10 arrests? "Over four hundred black students march downtown to protest. Police guards with loud speakers order them to disperse." It talks about a fifteen foot alley that ran alongside of City Hall, where they were . . .
LAURIE PRITCHETT:
Let's get this into focus, now, because actually what happened: the mayor at that time was Asa Kelly. He was a judge in Georgia now, and he was a practicing attorney, Asa Kelly. And unknown to anybody, unknown to me or I don't guess any other city council, he had given permission for these blacks to parade in an orderly fashion in downtown. And they did. No one bothered them. The police were there. There were always up in the thousands of whites on one side of the street, and the police were in the middle. And they marched. After they come up, you know, the mayor said he had given permission, so they did. And he told them they had permission to circle the block twice, and then after that they were to go

Page 5
back. And they continued to circle. And then they begin to move off the sidewalk; they were blocking pedestrians. There were so many of them that people couldn't get in or out of the stores on the street. And that's when we asked them to disperse. And I don't think any was arrested that day. That alley they're talking about, they called it Freedom Alley. It was just an alley between the police headquarters and some other buildings, and they called it Freedom Alley, because that's where most of them ended up. And we would book them, fingerprint them, mug them, put them on buses and ship them out. We never did what they intended to do. And King's philosophy, you know, was on Gandhi's, the march to the sea where they just filled the jails to capacity, and no place to put them, and then you've got to turn in to it. Out plans had been made where we had the capability of 10,000 prisoners, and never put a one in our city jail. They were to be shipped out to surrounding cities that were in a circle. And we had fifteen miles, twenty-five miles, forty-five miles on up to about seventy miles that we could ship prisoners to.
JAMES RESTON:
Now who worked out that plan?
LAURIE PRITCHETT:
I did.
JAMES RESTON:
Of course it was your idea to do it that way.
LAURIE PRITCHETT:
Yes, because, like I say, I'd studied the thing. I'd read a lot about King and used his . . . on Gandhi on overpower them by mass arrests. He knew our jail facilities were limited, and he felt if he brought four hundred people, with four hundred arrests we'd have no place to put them. But they'd already bought part of the buses; they were out of business, so the city buses brought the buses in. We'd fill them up, send them to Camilla or surrounding cities around Albany, and they would put them in

Page 6
their jails and we'd leave personnel there to watch them. So we never had any in ours.
JAMES RESTON:
Well now, that had to be worked out with who, with the governor?
LAURIE PRITCHETT:
No, it was worked out with the local people, and the sheriffs in the surrounding cities, police chiefs in the surrounding cities, the commissioners and local government. And they said, "Look, you're fighting our battle. We know if Albany falls all of us fall, so we're with you." And they didn't charge us for upkeep or anything. We'd have been about sixty miles from Atlanta, the last place we could have kept them. And like I say, we'd have twenty-four hundred.
JAMES RESTON:
At this time?
LAURIE PRITCHETT:
Oh, over a period of time. You know, we had mass marches in '61, from '61 continuously. We'd arrest seven or eight hundred people in marches every march they made. I guess at one time we had about fifteen hundred in jail at that time.
JAMES RESTON:
Did you ever have to get to the seventy-five perimeter?
LAURIE PRITCHETT:
No, no. And then our bonds were set at two hundred dollars cash and no security bonds; that's the only way they could get out. Then the preachers came in: you know, seventy-five ministers from all over the United States come in, and they were arrested. At one time they had, oh, seven or eight hundred thousand dollars down there in escrow; I guess it's still there.
JAMES RESTON:
OK. Well then, the trial takes place on the twelfth, and you booked four hundred people or so. On the thirteenth there was a prayer meeting with Slayter King, whom he defines as from a distinguished black family in Albany, arrested in a prayer meeting where, on the steps of City

Page 7
Hall?
LAURIE PRITCHETT:
Yes.
JAMES RESTON:
He was sentenced to five days for contempt of court.
LAURIE PRITCHETT:
That's true.
JAMES RESTON:
And you say to the press, or are quoted as saying you can't tolerate the NAACP or SNCC or any other Negro organization to take over this town with mass demonstrations.
LAURIE PRITCHETT:
Now that's what they said. They quoted me as saying that "We would not tolerate the NAACP or SNCC or any other nigger organization." And it was misquoted; I did not say "nigger," and I didn't say anything about the NAACP. I said that they should take the right of the NAACP and go to court and not the street. And as a result of not going to the courts we would not tolerate them taking over the city of Albany by force or any other intimidation. We would not tolerate it: this is what I said, but they took it out of context. That was not the national media; that was the Atlanta General Constitution with McGill, you know. You know he never did write us up right. The New York Herald Tribune, the New York Times, Newsweek and all this, they was right down the middle. But that's the only one that quoted me as saying that we would not let this town be taken over by a bunch of niggers.
JAMES RESTON:
Were you conscious at that time of press relations?
LAURIE PRITCHETT:
Oh yes.
JAMES RESTON:
Were you very careful about your language?
LAURIE PRITCHETT:
Sure. You know, the press had been to other places and been intimidated (cameras broken, they were not able to walk the streets), and so we had set up that every day, twice a day we'd have news conferences.

Page 8
They'd come to my room at the hotel. You know, we were living in the two downtown hotels in Albany; we had commandeered them. All my police officers were living in the hotels. We lived in the hotels for months at a time. They'd come to my room at night and we'd sit down and talk. But they could go anywhere they wanted to. We kept them alerted as to what was going to happen, because we had sources of information. We knew when they were going to march, where they were going to march, what they were going to do. Some of the news reporters, Fred Miller from the New York Herald Tribune, and one other one (he's down in Raleigh now with the Raleigh Observer) . . .
JAMES RESTON:
Claude Seaton?
LAURIE PRITCHETT:
Yes. He was with the New York Times at that time. They'd come and call me. They'd come and say, "Look, chief, they're going to do such-and-such." And we had a mutual understanding.
I remember one night Dr. King came to my office. It was about five o'clock, and my secretary come in with a telegram. I opened it up, and it was from my wife. It was in July; it was our anniversary. And I read it, and then Dr. King says, "Did something disturb you, Chief Pritchett?" I said, "Well yes, in a way. This telegram's from my wife. It's our anniversary, and I haven't been home in two or three weeks." Dr. King looked at me and he says, "All right. You go home tonight, enjoy your anniversary, do anything you want to. There'll be nothing happening in this town tonight." And he said, "In the morning we'll take up where we left off." So I said, "Do you mean this?" He said, "You have my word." So I got in my truck and went home. We went out to dinner. When we came back to my house after we left the Victory Club (a steak house) there was a bunch of cars out in front, and I

Page 9
thought something had happened. And it was the news media. This one you just mentioned from Raleigh was standing there, all of them. They'd went and got my wife a gift certificate and brought it back to the house to us. And we sat there and had a few drinks and talked. And then the next morning we took up where we left off. But I had good relations with the news media.
JAMES RESTON:
OK. Then on December 15 Martin Luther King was invited to Albany by the Albany Movement executive committee. "December 16, Saturday evening, the climax, where Martin Luther King leads 250 hymn-singing men and women down Jackson Street towards the county courthouse. Chief Pritchett stopped them two blocks from City Hall . . . "
LAURIE PRITCHETT:
[unknown]
JAMES RESTON:
OK. " . . . asked King if he had a parade permit. Pritchett orders arrests to be made for parading without a permit. Again, into the alley. Negotiations begin. The settlement gives very few concessions to the blacks, and the New York Herald Tribune calls it ‘one of the most stunning defeats in the career of Martin Luther King.’"
LAURIE PRITCHETT:
Well, this is true. You know, the mayor and the city council never at any time negotiated with Dr. King or any member of the Albany Movement. I had the power to negotiate; I had executive power still in the books. I had more power than the mayor had. I could open or close—you know I closed the pools on my orders.
JAMES RESTON:
The pool rooms, you mean?
LAURIE PRITCHETT:
The pools, swimming pools. The city owns four city-owned pools. We closed them.
JAMES RESTON:
What was the purpose of that?
LAURIE PRITCHETT:
Well, they were jumping the fence, and it was a bad situation. It could have developed into something really bad. And I

Page 10
closed them, and they stayed closed. They were closed for about two and a half years or three years. And they were sold to private interests. They were sold to James Gray, who was the editor of the Albany Herald. He later left the [unknown] And he bought one of the pools and opened it up on a private basis. But there were never any negotiations. And when they say here that negotiations failed at the result of any menial things, this is true. There was nothing to negotiate, as I told Dr. King; we would never negotiate under threat of violence or intimidation. If they went to court and the courts ruled in their favor, we would abide by the court ruling. But our laws at that time were constitutional, and we were going to enforce them. And we would not be intimidated by street violence of whatever sort; there would be no agreement as long as we were under threat or intimidation. And that's the way it stood; we never did.
JAMES RESTON:
But in point of fact, there never would have been any concessions made anyway.
LAURIE PRITCHETT:
No, there would never have been any concessions made as long as the tension and the atmosphere were such, and under threat of intimidation.
JAMES RESTON:
But I'm saying, even if that element was not there, if there never had been an Albany Movement there never would have been any real changes.
LAURIE PRITCHETT:
Oh yes. There's not that many changes in there now, you know. It wasn't the fact that I was a segregationist. As I stated, I considered myself a professional law-enforcement administrator. We went by the law. When the Public Accommodations Bill was passed in Fort

Page 11
Lauderdale I went down there to see Dr. King, Andrew Young; they were the movement in Fort . . . Saint Augustine. And I went down there, me and a couple of city councilmen, and went specifically to see Dr. King. And that's the day; on the way back the Public Accommodations Bill was signed by President Johnson in 1964. You know, I'd been invited to Robert Kennedy's office in Washington, and I was up there for a week visiting with him as his guest. And he asked me, he said, "Chief Pritchett, what will your people do when the Public Accommodations Bill is passed?" I said, "Tell me. You're asking me about my people. Now what people are you referring to? If you're referring to my people in Albany, Georgia, we'll abide by it. Everybody'll abide by that law if it's passed. Now if you're asking me what the South will do, Birmingham, Montgomery, Selma and these other places, I don't know what they're going to do." I came back that day after the bill was signed. He signed it; Dr. King was up there. We listened to it on the radio coming in. And we knew that night that they were going to test out the places in Albany. I not only went to all the businesses and met with them at the Chamber of Commerce, I said, "If this bill is passed then it's all over. They're going to come in, they're going to eat, they're going to sleep in the motels. The law is the law, and I've been enforcing it because we had our laws. Now if this is passed we're going to enforce that one. I'm going to force you to open up, and it's going to be non-violent." And that night they went in. They went— Slater, C.B.—and some of them went to the Holiday Inn. They went right in, had their dinner. Some of them raced it and went all over. You know, nothing happened. And so this is what I say: when it became a law that the people in the businesses and things of this nature had to do

Page 12
it by law, they did it. You know, they boycotted downtown. They said they wouldn't buy anything from white merchants, and they did this for a long time. They went to Camilla, they went everywhere, but they wouldn't buy a penny . . . The blacks wouldn't spend a nickel in Albany, Georgia. And the merchants called a meeting and invited me down. They said, "Look. We're losing money, but we know what this is. And we're going to stand back; we're not going to put any pressure. Just go ahead." And this is where the people were. The Klan: I don't know whether it says anything in here, but you know Shelton and all them came in from Alabama. We would not let them come into Albany, Georgia. When Dr. King come in he had escorts; we escorted him everywhere, police escorts. The American Nazis out of Washington came in; we wouldn't let them parade. We packed them up in their car and they went back. Shelton and all of the Ku Klux Klan, they met on the outside of the city limits; we wouldn't let them come in. They never did come in for parading or anything.
JAMES RESTON:
Was there any Klan in Albany, any local Klan? What did they do?
LAURIE PRITCHETT:
Oh yes. Nothing. They said, "As long as you enforce the law like you're doing, against us, against the blacks, against anybody." See, we arrested a great number of whites that were trying to intimidate or interfere with some of these peaceful demonstrations. They had their mass meetings. There was four or five thousands at these mass meetings. Nobody ever hurt them. We'd go down and cordon off three or four blocks where whites couldn't come through. You know, we wouldn't let anybody come through there. And so they had their mass meetings. And this is what Dr. King said; he thought they would come in here and there would be police slinging clubs and all this business. But it didn't happen.

Page 13
JAMES RESTON:
Yes, OK. Let me continue on. Then in January of 1962 there was an incident of a black girl sitting down in the front seat of a bus. And the driver leaves his seat and tells her where she is supposed to sit.
LAURIE PRITCHETT:
This was a privately-owned bus system; it wasn't owned by the city of Albany.
JAMES RESTON:
Yes, OK. And her reply is, "I paid my damn twenty cents, and I can sit where I want." And she is arrested. And you're quoted as saying that the reason she was arrested was for the use of vulgar language. She was found guilty in city court for using obscene language.
LAURIE PRITCHETT:
This was true, and it was based upon the testimony of the driver and witnesses from the passengers which were on there. And she did. There were some good people on that bus, and she did use vulgar language. What she said here is nothing compared to what she used. And she was convicted upon the testimony of the bus driver and two or three of the passengers who heard it.
JAMES RESTON:
But wasn't it, in fact, a situation where the obscene language was just a charge that was made, but really the fact was that she was sitting in the front of the bus? Wasn't that right?
LAURIE PRITCHETT:
That didn't have anything to do with it; to me it didn't. It was a privately-owned bus system; they could sit them where they wanted. It was not owned by the city. The city had no responsibility. It was privately-owned. It finally went out of business. They boycotted them, and rather than do it they went out of business. But it was their right as private enterprise.
JAMES RESTON:
OK. In July of 1962 Abernathy and King are tried on the parade. And you make a statement, according to this, that race was not an issue in

Page 14
the arrests at all, that it was that you were merely there enforcing the statute that required a permit for parades.
LAURIE PRITCHETT:
True. There was never any prejudice involved in black and white as far as I was concerned. Dr. King knew this. It was a matter that it was a law.
JAMES RESTON:
Yes. But then you're on the stand and you're asked to define what a parade is. And you answer that there was no definition. And Holloway, I gather, . . .
LAURIE PRITCHETT:
[unknown]
JAMES RESTON:
. . . is the prosecutor of defense, probably, or defense attorney. He said, "Then it's anything that you want to make it?" And you reply yes, from your point of view.
LAURIE PRITCHETT:
My definition that I gave up there as to what a parade is: it could constitute one person, it could constitute many persons. As to what might be a parade in my mind, it might not be a parade in other people's. But as stated there in that court, I was quoting their statements in the paper that they were going to parade. If that's what they were doing . . . They said they were parading. But parades, you know, you can have two people in a parade; you can have one. Those federal judges ruled that, that it didn't constitute whether it was one or many. And the federal judges ruled in our favor and upheld us in our enforcement of this, because they said the sole discrepancy was in my judgment. As I stated, when you've got 400 or 500 or whatever they got here and you've got 70 or 80,000 people, then you've got to determine: do you remove the 400 or keep the peace in [unknown], or do you leave it out here and let this whole . . .
[END OF TAPE 1, SIDE A]

[TAPE 1, SIDE B]

[START OF TAPE 1, SIDE B]
LAURIE PRITCHETT:
. . . close personal friend of mine. You know, all of those, George Foreman, Dr. King. You never read anything in any of his books or his wife's where they said that I made mistakes or mistreated anybody. So it's the source that you were reading it from . . .
JAMES RESTON:
OK. Now let me read you this. Now this is written by a liberal writer. He says, "Police chief Pritchett was hailed in the newspapers all over the country for preventing violence in Albany, and an Atlanta Constitution reporter did a piece on Pritchett in which he did not conceal his admiration. A reporter from the New York Herald Tribune said Pritchett ‘brought up to Albany a standard of professional achievement that would be difficult to emulate in a situation so made-to-order for violence.’" That's Miller.
LAURIE PRITCHETT:
That's Miller. That's the New York Herald Tribune, right?
JAMES RESTON:
Yes.
LAURIE PRITCHETT:
Yes. Well, I just wish I was at home so I could give you all of this. You could put the Atlanta Constitution in general over here and see what their reporters reported. You could put the New York Herald Tribune, the New York Times and all these others over here, and you wouldn't even think it was the same situation. See what I'm doing?
JAMES RESTON:
Now he goes on to say, "Pritchett earned this praise by simply putting into prison every man, woman and child who dared protest in any way the infringement of rights guaranteed to them by the Constitution."
LAURIE PRITCHETT:
Right: whites, blacks, anybody.
JAMES RESTON:
"His glorification in the press may indicate that Americans have been led to a distorted view of the rights of citizens and the duties of

Page 16
police officers in a democratic state. Is it not the function of police officers to defend the rights of citizens against anyone who would prevent them from exercising those rights? The praise of Pritchett was a measure of the extent to which the purveyors of violence in Montgomery"—well, that's too complicated. "The pattern of arrests in Albany is quite clear. The police kept peace, which had not been broken and with no signs that it was about to be broken, by putting into prison over 700 men, women and children who were exercising their basic American rights to assemble peacefully and to petition the government." Well, we've really gone over that. But he just goes on to talk about some of the pattern in the first eight months of 1962 for arrests: students asking for library cards questioned by the police, girl sitting in front of a bus arrested, two young men in Trailways restaurant arrested, four men picketing in a store downtown arrested, thirty young people trying to get service at lunch counters arrested, and so forth and so on.
LAURIE PRITCHETT:
Right.
JAMES RESTON:
He says—I'm just being a devil's advocate here—"True, Chief Pritchett did not torture or blackjack his prisoners. But is that enough to meet the standards of American freedom? Pritchett arrested more than a thousand people for praying, singing, marching or picketing. He did not make a single move towards the arrest when Sheriff Campbell, just across the street, bludgeoned C. B. King; and the attorney staggered, still bleeding, into Pritchett's office.
LAURIE PRITCHETT:
That's right. Where did he come to for help? He came to me. And you've got to realize, you know: the chief of police's powers does not supercede the powers of the sheriff. He is the chief law enforcement

Page 17
of the county. And you've got to remember, he was an old, at that time probably senile, old man. He didn't believe in my philosophy. He wouldn't let his deputies or anybody join us when we had the troopers and we had all these other people down there, because he didn't believe in it. Now Crowell Campbell (that's who it was), Sheriff Crowell Campbell, he's a fine old man. And C. B. agitated him that day; attorney C. B. King agitated him that day in his office until he took his crooked walking cane and popped him in the head with it. C. B. ran from there to my office, and he knew there that he'd be protected. He was taken by my people to the local hospital; he was treated. C. B. King never uttered a word against me. And this incident right here was one that almost ignited Albany, Georgia, because all the whites (and we had them in there with their lunches, you know, with shotguns in the back of their cars and baseball bats; and they'd bring the kids with lunches and just sit waiting for something so they could come out), they figured that when the sheriff did this this would give them the right. And we had to go out on public address systems and state that there would be no violence. We would not tolerate it. And we cleared the whole town. I closed the bars; I closed everything in that town. There wasn't anything open. And we cordoned it off where nobody could come in. True. As I stated before, Dag Holloway, the lawyer; Constant Motley, who is now federal judge; the other NAACP . . . Glutenberg; they all came down. They took federal court action against me, sued me for ?850,000 for violation of civil rights. We went into federal court. The five federal judges ruled in my favor. So yes, Crowell Campbell hit C. B. King, but it didn't have anything to do . . . There's an old saying that goes, "Where did he run to?"

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JAMES RESTON:
Well, listening to you talk about this period of history, it's almost as if there's a certain feeling of affection for Dr. King and those others.
LAURIE PRITCHETT:
Oh, there was.
JAMES RESTON:
People that had gone through something as adversaries.
LAURIE PRITCHETT:
Back then we were in a situation. As I met with the city council and they were telling me what they were going to do and what they wanted done, I said, "Look. I'm going to enforce the law. Now, you make policy. If you want to make policy, you make it and I have to carry it out. If I don't want to carry it out, then you get you somebody else. But I'm not going to be dictated by you or anybody else. You're not going to tell me who to arrest, who not to arrest. We're going by the law, and if the whites violate it they're going to be arrested just like the blacks." There was an understanding. It wasn't that I had any prejudice against the blacks. You know, at that time I was wanting to hire blacks on the police force, and they wouldn't do it (the city council). I had I think it was eight or ten already picked out and ready to be hired, and they voted me down. All right, some time later I went back and submitted their names to a split vote. One person had come over to my side and given me a four to three vote, and I hired them. And one of the councilmen went on radio and television saying he didn't know whether they ought to call this King's men or Pritchett's guard. But I hired them, and they worked out fine. That got blacks in there. And before I left Albany, when I knew I was leaving . . . Because frankly, at that time I guess I was politically the strongest person in the state. Carl Sanders come down there; he was running for governor and wanted me, as he said, to put my wagon on his star.

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I said, "I won't put it on nobody's star. I don't follow you." And it became embarrassing, and I'd accomplished everything I could accomplish in Albany. But before I left I was meeting with C. B. King and the others, planning to get the pools back open, to set up recreation programs, all this which they'd never have done down there without my doing it, you know. And when I left there everything was fine. The blacks and the whites, there was no problem; hadn't been.
I went through there about three years ago going fishing in Florida, and the garbage collectors and all were marching. I went up to the police headquarters to see some of my old friends. And C. B. saw me, and said, "My god, what are you doing? Did they call you back?" And I said, "No." And he said, "I wish they had, because we could get this thing settled out." Yes, I had compassion for them. But as I told Dr. King, as he used to say, "You help me turn the corner and you can have anything you want. You can be head marshall of the United States if you help me turn the corner." I said, "Dr. King, you know I'm not going to help you turn the corner. If the law is the law, that's the way it's going to be." But there was a friendship, a close friendship between Dr. King and me. You know, when he was assassinated I was going to his funeral. You know, and then everywhere we had potentials. See, in High Point we had potentials; they were burning everywhere. And this is what I said in Albany: wherever this man is killed, hell's going to break loose, because there's going to be fires going to light this country up. And this is the reason in Albany, as soon as he'd leave Atlanta he'd tell me approximately what time he'd be coming into Americus, which was forty miles north of Albany. We'd meet him. One of my men would get in the car, he'd get in our car, and then they'd come in by two

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cars. And we took him everywhere. There was a plot down there to kidnap him, and we found out about this and got it stopped. But there was a close friendship, you know.
JAMES RESTON:
That's really an interesting thing to me. Somebody else wrote this. Now this is from the opposing side. It says, "A tension of love and hate for the whites existed. It was another sense of strength that the movement fed upon, because when the name of a dread or evil symbol"—now you have to understand where they're coming from—"of white tyranny would be mentioned . . . . " And then you're mentioned, along with Jim Clark and Bull Conner and Brenner.
LAURIE PRITCHETT:
There's no comparison between us three people.
JAMES RESTON:
He says, " . . . a murmur would go up in the audience: in part disdained loathing, but also in part a strange kind of laughter, almost fond, something in it of a real appreciation, their ability to stand off and chuckle over having shared so much with a person in struggle."
LAURIE PRITCHETT:
Well, you know, in court one day I referred to attorney King as C. B., and C. B. referred to me as Laurie. Well, the judge didn't say anything when I referred to him as C. B., but when he referred to me as Laurie he gravelled and gravelled and said, "You will refer to him as Chief Pritchett." And I said, "Look, your honor, we're friends. My friends can call me Laurie." And this is the way it went. Everything was all right, but there was nothing said when I referred to him as C.B. That was fine, you know; but when he referred to me as Laurie, this was . . . well, it wasn't his position to do this (you know, it was a black man to a white man). My compassion . . . you know, when I came to High Point as chief of police in 1966, they had blacks on the department. They had had

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a couple that had been on it for years. But they dealt with nothing but blacks. They couldn't make a white arrest. And I stated there in my opening address for all the personnel that the day of blacks riding the black section was over, that they would patrol the white sections, that there would be no more of this going up to speak to the banker as Mr. Banker when you get into the black section. You refer to them as blacks or Negroes. But there'd be no more of this. I elevated blacks into command positions. Well, I think High Point, North Carolina during my tenure of office we had the best race relations in the history. So I think this speaks that there was no prejudice so far as I was concerned.
JAMES RESTON:
Before I came over I went to the Greensboro paper to look up some clippings. I was interested in a speech that was reported. (Maybe I haven't got it here.) Well, one of them was you talking in 1966 about warning that any future demonstrators who resorted to illegal acts to achieve their goals would be arrested. You say, "We the police will protect the rights of all who assemble and petition peacefully."
LAURIE PRITCHETT:
True.
JAMES RESTON:
That's a little bit different from Albany; I mean, the King thing . . .
LAURIE PRITCHETT:
A whole lot of difference. You know, in Albany you had different circumstances. Up here you had more of a liberal council, and I could do things that I wanted. Well, I could initiate programs, where down there (just like hiring the blacks) I couldn't. But I met with the blacks when I first came to High Point. They thought I was some kind of devil, you know. I hadn't been here a year until the black business or professional men's club had passed a resolution praising me and giving full support. Now you can go in the black section, and some of my most

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loyal supporters are blacks, even through all this rigamarole that I've gone through here (which was political). Well, in Albany I had the political strength; people didn't resent that. Here, I became strong here and some of the politicians resented this because they couldn't tell me what to do—particularly one, Paul Clapp. So he set out on this investigation. It all turned out that it wasn't nothing. As I stated to you, after spending twenty-eight years in law enforcement, recognized all over the United States for my ability and honesty and integrity, they come up here and say that because I own a lake house that I'm corrupt. All it was was political. And it's a hell of a way to end up a career. You know, I was recognized all over the United States. I was offered a police chief job in Seattle, Washington; I turned it down to stay here. And then, after twenty-eight years because of political differences to end up having to go through the kangaroo court that I went through, and it ended up breaking my health and all so that I had to retire, that's a hell of a price to pay.
JAMES RESTON:
Well, when I read this thing here in which this writer did put you together with Bull Conner and Jim Clark, where do you see the difference?
LAURIE PRITCHETT:
Who was it that wrote it?
JAMES RESTON:
That's Howard Zinn. He wrote something for the Southern Regional Council.
LAURIE PRITCHETT:
You know, he wrote a thing that it was . . . All those others looked at it and just shook their heads in amazement. Zinn, as far as I know, was never in Albany, Georgia. It was all after it was over. And putting me in the same category with a Bull Conner . . . After King left Albany, Georgia he was at his lowest peak. He was defeated.

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Moneywise, he had had to spend all that money in Albany for nothing. He went back. He had to make a start. He went to Birmingham. All right. Bull Conners, who was public safety director or something over there, while all this was going on in Albany he had sent Moye, who was chief of police in Birmingham, down. He stayed two or three weeks there observing and staying with me. All right, when they started there, Conners sent for me. He said, "I want you to come over here. We'll pay you." It was an outrageous price they was paying me. The city council said, "Go ahead and do it." So I went across. I met with him. And Moye was a close personal friend of mine for years. All right, I met with them. I told them things. The night they blew up King's motel I was there. And that resulted into just a terrible situation down there, you know. And I told them, I said, "You ought to put a guard. Now the Klan has said they're going to use violence on this man. They was meeting thirty miles over there in Bessemer, saying what they were going to do. "I don't give a damn if they blow him up; whatever happens, I'm not going to protect him." So I said, "OK, Mr. Conners. Tomorrow I'll catch the next plane out, because you're wasting my time." Well, they blew him up that night, and they tore up every police car they had the next day. And I left; I didn't have anything in common with Bull Conners. Now I went to Montgomery to see Dr. King. And the rumor was out, somebody had wrote (I think it was in the Atlanta General Constitution) that King was going to return to Albany. So I went to see Dr. King in Montgomery; went over to the FBI post, the intelligence post where they'd send in all this stuff to Hoover, you know. And I asked them where he was. They told me where he was, at some old [unknown] hotel. And I went up there,

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and I looked at the place. I told one of my men, Superintendent Mannley, who was with me, I said, "Dr. King wouldn't be caught in that place. Let's go over to the college." So we went over and got over there, and I guess we were about the only whites around. And I was trying to see somebody that I knew, and about that time Andrew Young saw me. And he hollered, and took me up to this house. And he said, "Dr. King is not here. He's out in the country. I'll take you out to him." So I went out and talked to Dr. King for about an hour and a half. He told me, he said, "Don't you listen to nobody. I don't have anything to come back to Albany for. I don't even like to hear of Albany. I'm not coming back there. You go ahead and tend to your business. You won't ever be bothered with me again." So I got in the car and went back. And that night before I left they had a march. And that's when the first deputies in Montgomery come out with those horses and whips and stuff. And the Montgomery police were trying to do what was right, but the sheriff come in with them mounted posse and went up on porches bullwhipping people, and horses kicking people.
Now this Clark, I knew the chief of police in Selma; his name was Mulligan. They had some other fellow over there, a great big fellow; I forget his name. But Clark, there was nothing in common with me and Clark. You know, Clark's in North Carolina now, down around or some place selling real estate. But there was nothing in common with me and him. As I stated to the national press, Bull Conners and Jamie Moore—not Jamie Moore, Clark—did more to pass the Public Accommodations bill than Martin Luther King or Roy Wilkins or any others, because they are the ones that put national focus on violence and mistreatment of blacks and got their sympathy. And that bill passed, and they are responsible for it.

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It's a good bill. I was glad to see it. But they're the ones that did it. There's no comparison between me and Bull Conners or Jimmy Clark.
JAMES RESTON:
Did you ever talk to Jim Clark?
LAURIE PRITCHETT:
Yes, I talked to him on the phone a number of times. And we had nothing in common. They invited me over there; the mayor of Selma and chief Mullins wanted me to come over there. I said, "I have nothing . . . I just don't want to be over there." I told you, I was invited by Robert Kennedy to Washington. He wanted me; I didn't know what he wanted. I'd been there two or three days before it finally come around he wanted me to go to work with the Justice Department as a trouble-shooter. He said, "The southerners respect you. You can go into Jackson, Mississippi; you can go into these places and they'll do what you say." And I said, "I'm telling you, I cannot go to work with you. They respect me because I've enforced the law equally. Now if I walk in there and say ‘I'm with the Justice Department,’ they're going to term me as a turncoat and they'll run me out of town [laughter]. So I can't do that." And I had no political ambitions. You know, they encouraged me to run for Congress for the second district there. And I'd have probably gotten it, you know. But I wasn't qualified for it, and had no ambitions in politics. They always taught me, "Better to know a politician than to be one." And I have never had any intentions of using this as a political game. I don't like political people; I just don't like political people.
JAMES RESTON:
Now when you say, "The law is the law, and the law has to be enforced," that's true. But there has to be belief behind that. I mean, you had to have a set of beliefs back in 1961 that not only what you were doing as a law enforcement officer was right, but that the nature of

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Albany and the way it was set up was right. You had to believe in that.
LAURIE PRITCHETT:
Yes, I didn't believe in the system as the way that Albany should be segregated. I never believed that Albany should be segregated. But I was a firm believer, and I still am today, that laws on the book (there was no federal laws governing back at that time), no federal law superceded our local laws. Our state laws, nothing superceded them. It wasn't the fact that I wanted the status quo to remain in Albany, Georgia. But it was a fact that it was a law. At the time, if I had enforced that law there would have been bloodshed on both sides, a lot of bloodshed. In talking with Dr. King, Roy Wilkins and all of them, we didn't differ in what they wanted. I wanted it too, but I differed in the means they took, especially Dr. King. Not Roy Wilkins, because Wilkins went to the courts. He never went to the streets. Dr. King said it cost too much money and was too time-consuming. So I said, "All right, now you are drawing lines, Doctor. Now you are telling me that you're going to take to the streets in defiance of the law. Now if you do this I'm going to have to arrest you, you, whites or anybody. But now I'm telling you to go to the courts. You go into the court. All you've got to do is give an injunction to stop us from enforcing our illegal law. If it's illegal, then the court is going to decide. And it won't take long, because once you take an injunction we have to fight it one way or the other. If it's not a good law it'll be overruled; then you're on your way." But he said, "I'm not going into the court." And I said, "In other words you're going into the streets." He said, "That's true." I said, "Then we're going to meet in the streets." And that's the way it was.
JAMES RESTON:
Do you think that your views in 1961 are essentially what they are

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now in 1976, or has there been any evolution at all?
LAURIE PRITCHETT:
Oh yes. No. My views now, as I stated before: I've always had compassion for people, underprivileged or deprived people. I've always had this compassion for them, to want to help them. This is the reason I say, you can go to Albany, you can talk to C. B. King—Slater's dead now; he was killed in an automobile wreck—you can talk to Charles Surard. They have nothing but respect for me, because I understood them and they understood me. It was just the fact that they wanted to do something that just couldn't be done at that time. I've been criticized for my compassion; just in this stuff that's happened to me here in High Point, it stemmed from my compassion for the blacks. They said I was moving too fast and doing too much. Politically, of course, they hung it to me.
JAMES RESTON:
You talked about this for a minute, but let me broaden the question a bit. There is an image in the United States of the southern sheriffs. You can see it in the movies; you can see it on the Dodge ads and all of that. How do you suppose that got fixed?
LAURIE PRITCHETT:
Well, it's plain to me, you know, that the sheriffs are elected politically. They're not trained law enforcement. You've got people that are elected sheriffs that never had a bit of training in their whole life: insurance salesmen, farmers.
This is my wife Betty.
JAMES RESTON:
How do you do. Jim Reston.
Mrs. Pritchett: Hello, how do you do.
LAURIE PRITCHETT:
They're political appointments. And this is the reason I say that I don't have any love for politicians. A sheriff gets out here.

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He runs on the platform to get the votes. And when he gets elected there's a group over here that supported him; he's not going to enforce the laws against them. And it is a corn pone situation, the way I look at it. It's a disrespect for the law enforcement profession. I think that anybody who is sheriff, he is the chief law enforcement of his given county. And we've got so many, I'd say ninety-five percent of the sheriffs in this . . . I don't know but one in this whole country (that's Jim Pintras out in Los Angeles County), I can't name on my hand five qualified sheriffs rather than Jim Pintras, just openly speaking, in the United States. And this is the reason that I think that it ought to be done away with. Any time you get elected you get elected by people who expect something from you. And this is the reason I have no love for politicians; and I never could be one because of that fact.
JAMES RESTON:
Did it bother you, I don't know, to see a Dodge ad about a Dodge car with the . . . ?
LAURIE PRITCHETT:
Oh yes. Well, this is always depressing to me, to see this. It was not professional, and I always looked upon law enforcement as the best-trained . . . And then you look at something out here with some sheriff walking around . . .
END OF INTERVIEW