Title: Oral History Interview with Laurie Pritchett, April 23, 1976. Interview B-0027.
Interviewer: Reston, James
Interviewee: Pritchett, Laurie
Subjects: King, Martin Luther, Jr., 1929-1968 Civil rights movements--Georgia--Albany
Abstract: Laurie Pritchett describes his involvement with the civil rights movement in Albany, Georgia. In this interview, Pritchett attempts to alter his public image as a racist police chief, expressing his profound compassion for blacks. He explains his complicated friendship with Martin Luther King Jr. and discusses his efforts to place blacks on the police force in Albany in the mid-1960s. After he left the Albany force, Pritchett helped African American causes as police chief in High Point, North Carolina. Much of the interview, however, explores Pritchett's use of King's strategy of nonviolence. His innovative application of passive law enforcement allowed Albany to stand as a site where the national civil rights movement failed. In December 1961, Pritchett trained his police officers to resist civil rights demonstrators nonviolently. This training often frustrated King's passive resistance tactics in Albany by preventing the negative publicity brought about by brutal police reaction to marches in other towns in the Deep South. Refusing to use the violent tactics of Alabama law enforcement officials such as Jim Clark in Selma and T. Eugene "Bull" Connor in Birmingham, Pritchett discusses how his peaceful strategy effectively eliminated bargaining abilities for King and other civil rights activists. Unlike Pritchett, Clark and Connor frequently helped civil rights activists achieve their goals. Pritchett explains that his problem with the protesters was not their interest in integration, but with their massive public demonstrations. He remarks on the incredible power his role as police chief afforded him. He believes sheriffs should be politically elected, exposing tensions between sheriffs and police chiefs.