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Oral History Interview with Laurie Pritchett, April 23, 1976. Interview B-0027. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007).
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  • 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.
  • Subverting King's nonviolence strategy to Pritchett's advantage
  • Pritchett contends that the press often misquoted his views on civil rights
  • Fluid set of relations between Pritchett and anti-segregationist groups
  • Pritchett impeded civil rights activists' efforts
  • White Albany residents followed federal orders despite their social sensibilities
  • Inactivity due to the hierarchy of police power
  • Pritchett reshapes his public image
  • Pritchett distances himself from other reactionary police officials
  • Bully tactics used against civil rights activists in other southern cities backfired
  • Argument against the political election of police sheriffs
  • Learn More
  • Finding aid to the Southern Oral History Program Collection
  • Database of all Southern Oral History Program Collection interviews
  • Resources for Educators
  • Changes in Southern Politics Learning Object
  • Subjects
  • King, Martin Luther, Jr., 1929-1968
  • Civil rights movements--Georgia--Albany
  • The Southern Oral History Program transcripts presented here on Documenting the American South undergo an editorial process to remove transcription errors. Texts may differ from the original transcripts held by the Southern Historical Collection.

    Funding from the Institute for Museum and Library Services supported the electronic publication of this title.