White Albany residents followed federal orders despite their social sensibilities
Pritchett explains the importance of his law enforcement position. He insists that federal laws would be upheld, even if it altered existing racial or social customs. According to Pritchett, the protest against desegregation arose from outside white supremacist groups rather than the largely acquiescent white Albany residents.
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.:
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
- 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
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 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.