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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Quinton E. Baker, February 23, 2002. Interview K-0838. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

The protestors' experience with the Orange County court system

Baker was arrested multiple times during the Chapel Hill protests. He remembers how the judge handled the demonstrators' cases, using the time they spent in his court to insure that they were punished beyond what he could sentence.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Quinton E. Baker, February 23, 2002. Interview K-0838. 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

CHRIS McGINNIS:
So tell me about this court thing. Well, the culmination of your, you know your demonstrations and so forth, how it lead to having a court appearance, which lead to, —
QUINTON E. BAKER:
A court appearance? [Quinton chuckles, stressing that he had more than one appearance] Yes.
CHRIS McGINNIS:
I didn't know quite how to phrase it. You were seen before a Judge. Tell me about the judge and tell me about the charges and tell me about the results of that for you, John and Pat.
QUINTON E. BAKER:
Well, first of all, we were—Chapel Hill being a major thrust in 63, we really created havoc in Chapel Hill with the demonstrations, we had people sitting across the streets which were bigger then than basket ball games. We had people who were doing massive demonstrations in the middle of the street. And so we were then—the official charge was obstructing traffic and resisting arrest. We were tried here in Hillsborough at the Orange County Courthouse.
CHRIS McGINNIS:
Was there not a courthouse in Chapel Hill at the time?
QUINTON E. BAKER:
No, but we were County, there was a courthouse in Chapel Hill.
CHRIS McGINNIS:
Then why were you not tried there?
QUINTON E. BAKER:
Now was there a courthouse? No, there wasn't because the post office. What is now the courthouse, was the post office in Chapel Hill.
CHRIS McGINNIS:
Okay, I think that it serves as both.
QUINTON E. BAKER:
Well, at the time it was just a post office, because the old post office was just a post office where we had demonstrations and those things. I think that the county had jurisdiction, I think that it was a different process at the time, so we weren't tried in a municipal court; we were tried in the Orange County Superior Court. Perhaps it was relative to the indictment. But, we were tried in Hillsborough. Judge Mal—Raymond B. Mallard was the judge, who was really very much opposed to what we were doing and part of the way in which he punished us was that he—
CHRIS McGINNIS:
The charges sound very limited, I mean—
QUINTON E. BAKER:
They were limited.
CHRIS McGINNIS:
what were they again? They were obstructing traffic—
QUINTON E. BAKER:
And resisting arrest.
CHRIS McGINNIS:
Which normally would just get a slap on the wrist,
QUINTON E. BAKER:
Right
CHRIS McGINNIS:
so you got these very miniscule charges.
QUINTON E. BAKER:
Very miniscule charges, a lot of them.
CHRIS McGINNIS:
We did it twenty-five times. [Laughter] So every time that this happens, they had the police—
QUINTON E. BAKER:
Every time they arrested us, every time we allowed ourselves to be arrested, then we would have charges at the. We didn't get any—we might have had a few trespassing charges also against us. But the real charges that we were taken to court on was the obstructing and there were a large number of us. There were several of us, in fact, but what Judge Mallard did was to, since he knew that we were all students, he would not set a trial date or give us a calendar, he would make us come to court and we sat there for six weeks from eight in the morning to five in the afternoon, he would not allow us to read, he would not all w us to talk, or anything, we had to sit there in the courtroom and be quiet and listen.
CHRIS McGINNIS:
Is it fair to say that he was probably, that he was a racist? That he was prosegregation.
QUINTON E. BAKER:
Oh, yes, it was fair. I think that it is fairly fair. I think that was definitely trying to punish us, and punish us beyond what he though he could do in terms of court wise.
CHRIS McGINNIS:
Every thing that he could possible thing that he could do, he was going to do.
QUINTON E. BAKER:
and he identified those people who were in leadership positions, and he made sure that we got difficult sentences.
CHRIS McGINNIS:
he was cutting off the head of the snake.
QUINTON E. BAKER:
Yes, right, yes. And so when I was tried, when each of us was tried he would pass, what was then the Solicitor, it is now the Attorney General, he would ask the solicitor if we were leaders. And then the Solicitor would give some indication of his knowledge about our involvement in the movement. I was particularly targeted because I was the sort of mastermind of the demonstration. We would plan the demonstration, what we were going to do, but I would be the one to execute it and carry it out. And so, when I was tried, when Judge Mallard asked if I were a leader, the solicitor responded, "Your honor, if this were a Western you would call him Ramrod."
CHRIS McGINNIS:
Okay. [Laughter]
QUINTON E. BAKER:
And he [the judge] thanked them and said this isn't a Western, but he is still, so that basically what happened is that we all got fairly excessive sentences.
CHRIS McGINNIS:
Were there demonstrations outside of the courthouse when this was going on?
QUINTON E. BAKER:
No, because most of us were inside [Laughter] the leadership and everybody that was pretty much involved were in court together.