Documenting the American South Logo
oral histories of the American South
Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Laurie Pritchett, April 23, 1976. Interview B-0027. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Pritchett reshapes his public image

Pritchett attempts to disavow his public image as a racist. Instead, he fashions himself as a self-made man at the whim of no one. As such, he advocated unpopular causes such as putting blacks on the police force. His stance and focus on strict enforcement of the law relied on congenial relations between blacks and whites.

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

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. 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...