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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Mabel Williams, August 20, 1999. Interview K-0266. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Robert Williams displays guns to intimidate white segregationists

Williams remembers that Robert sometimes wore his gun, or guns, on his belt to send a signal to white segregationists. It was an effective intimidation tool.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Mabel Williams, August 20, 1999. Interview K-0266. 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

And during that time did I tell you that Rob had run for mayor?
DAVID CECELSKI:
I never heard that.
MABEL WILLIAMS:
You never heard that? He ran for the mayor of Monroe.
DAVID CECELSKI:
That's not in the book either, I don't think.
MABEL WILLIAMS:
I don't recall whether it is or not. But he ran for mayor of Monroe. And then the night of the counting of the votes, went downtown by himself with his guns on to watch them count the votes. And I got on the phone and called the rifle club members and told them. And so by the time they got through counting the votes there was a group of black men down there. [Laughter]
DAVID CECELSKI:
With guns.
MABEL WILLIAMS:
With guns waiting for him to finish looking at the—. He said, "Well I didn't want anybody to put their lives on the line for me." So he wouldn't tell anybody he was going. But I told them he was down there by himself.
DAVID CECELSKI:
And he wore his guns where people could see them?
MABEL WILLIAMS:
Yeah. He wore them in a holster on his hip.
DAVID CECELSKI:
Only one?
MABEL WILLIAMS:
Oh yeah. Sometimes he would wear two guns.
DAVID CECELSKI:
Was this [unclear]
MABEL WILLIAMS:
Legal by—
DAVID CECELSKI:
Would that be typical for Robert at that time? He'd go around with a gun through town, wearing a piece.
MABEL WILLIAMS:
He didn't do that often because most of the time he just had it in the car. But when he started getting threats, then he started doing that. Especially when they had a Klansman on the courthouse square getting petitions and Dr. Perry out of town. A Klansman with a table on the courthouse lawn.
DAVID CECELSKI:
So would Robert wear a holster?
MABEL WILLIAMS:
Uh-huh. Robert went up to this Klansman who was getting petitions and asked him, said, "Well, who is this Robert Williams? Do you know him?" And he said, "No, I don't know him." "But he's a dangerous man. Caused a lot of problems here in Monroe and we want to get rid of him." And Robert told him, said, "Well, I'll tell you who Robert Williams is. I'm Robert Williams. And if you're planning to run me out of town, it's going to take more than a petition." And he said the Klansman said, "Well, I just wanted to let you—. I didn't know that. I'm just doing what they told me to do." [Laughter] Oh, but it was after then because they had somebody named Hornbecker who was a Klan recruiter. And Robert had seen him several times at the police station. And that also made him know that the officials were allowing him to recruit right on the grounds of the law. And so when Rob found out about the law saying that you could carry, have a gun as long as it's not concealed, he started wearing his to let them know, "You can petition, but don't try to do it physically", you know.