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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 distances himself from other reactionary police officials

Pritchett distances himself from other extremist police officials of the time, such as Jim Clark and Bull Connor. He returns to this difference later in the interview. He also shares a story of the types of prejudices blacks faced. As a result of his empathy, Pritchett attempted to offer more opportunities to blacks as chief of police, which he credits as eliminating the racial prejudice.

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.: 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 Beau Conner and Brenner.
LAURIE PRITCHETT:
There's no comparison between us three people. JAMES RESTON, Jr.: 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 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.