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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 >>

Inactivity due to the hierarchy of police power

The NAACP leveled a lawsuit against Pritchett for failing to stop Albany Sheriff Crowell Campbell from beating C.B. King, a black civil rights activist. Rather than get involved, Pritchett argues that he adhered to the police system's hierarchy of power, illuminating existing tensions between the positions of sheriff and chief. Pritchett also contends that his strict obedience of the law encouraged blacks ultimately to seek his protection.

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.: 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 supersede the powers of the sheriff. He is the chief law enforcement 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; Constance 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?"