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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Laurie Pritchett, April 23, 1976. Interview B-0027. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Pritchett impeded civil rights activists' efforts

Pritchett returns to his role in thwarting Martin Luther King's civil rights strategy in Albany. He discusses the power his role as police chief carried and how his law enforcement tactics took away activists' ability to negotiate.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Laurie Pritchett, April 23, 1976. Interview B-0027. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

JAMES RESTON, Jr.: 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.'"
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, Jr.: The pool rooms, you mean?
The pools, swimming pools. The city owns four city-owned pools. We closed them. JAMES RESTON, Jr.: What was the purpose of that?
Well, they were jumping the fence, and it was a bad situation. It could have developed into something really bad. And I 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 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, Jr.: But in point of fact, there never would have been any concessions made anyway.
No, there would never have been any concessions made as long as the tension and the atmosphere were such, and under threat of intimidation.