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Oral history interview with William H. Jackson by Eugene Pfaff


Date: May 18, 1979

Interviewee: William H. Jackson

Biographical abstract: William Jackson (1915-1993), former captain of the Greensboro Police Department, served on the force from 1946 to 1976.

Interviewer: Eugene E Pfaff

Description: Captain Jackson recalls leading a special police force charged with maintaining peace during the 1963 demonstrations. He describes the various activities that occurred during that time and the measures he and his men took to keep order. Various informants are mentioned, including Jesse Jackson and Bill Thomas. He also recalls activities surrounding the shootings at A&T in 1969 that resulted in the death of Willie Grimes.

Subjects:

Format of original: Oral History

Collection: GreensboroVOICES Collection

Repository: The University of North Carolina at Greensboro

Item#: 1.10.529

Rights: It is responsibility of the user to follow the copyright law of the United States (Title 17, U.S. Code). Materials are not to be reproduced in published works without written consent, and any use should credit Civil Rights Greensboro and the appropriate repository.



Oral history interview with William H. Jackson by Eugene Pfaff

EUGENE PFAFF:

—the mass demonstrations that occurred in May 1963?

WILLIAM JACKSON:

They were anticipated to a degree but—and I mean by that, we didn't think that there would be as many involved as there were. Again, we began to get intelligence to the fact that they were planning this, but not in the great numbers as it resulted.

EP:

Had the police department taken, taken any special training in terms of crowd control for these large numbers?

WJ:

No, there was no specific training for that at that time prior to this. People in their basic training had been taught how to handle crowds and things like that, but nothing specific for this particular thing.

EP:

Had there been previous civil rights demonstrations or demands prior to these—

WJ:

Prior to '63, yes, there had been. The integration of the schools and the Woolworth's store incidents were the two that required some attention.

EP:

Why were you placed in charge of the police at the scene?

WJ:

Well, at the time, I was in charge of the detective division. And I had contact with a number of the individuals that were involved in these things. And I think more or less—pat myself on the back a little bit—my ability to deal with individuals. And the first thing of this thing came was a group in front of the S&W Cafeteria that was holding a prayer service. And at that time there was a permit required for that type of thing. And they sent me up there to take care of that, and I was able to handle it without any incidents. And were made—arrests were made. And from there on out I had taken over.

EP:

This was in '62, wasn't it, or was this—?

WJ:

It was just prior, it was just prior to the '63 instance. The best I can recall it was around in December probably. I'm not positive on the date but it was prior to that. And this is the thing. And from there on up it began to come.

EP:

Were you given final authority for police decisions at the demonstration sites?

WJ:

Police decisions? Yes, sir.

EP:

What were your instructions from your superiors?

WJ:

To see that the laws were not violated, to keep peace as much as we possibly could. The city authorities—the people in the authority of the city, the council, the chief of police—never once dictated to me in what manner we should handle these things. We were permitted to enforce the law and handle it as best we knew how and could, under the circumstances existing. And this is the way it was carried out.

EP:

What was the basis of selection of the sixteen officers that constituted your special squad?

WJ:

I chose those officers because of their ability to follow instructions and their ability to handle people. And I always liked to surround myself with people that I didn't have to worry about, and that's why they were selected.

EP:

What were your instructions to these officers?

WJ:

To handle all things with as much diplomacy as possible, and not to use any force unless it was necessary, and to discuss it and see what we could work out with them.

EP:

In addition to the instructions you received from your superior officers, what was your personal and professional philosophy of how these demonstrations should be handled?

WJ:

My personal philosophy has never been discussed. My professional philosophy was to handle it to where it would be the best for my community, for my town.

EP:

Would you prefer not to mention your—

WJ:

My personal philosophies, I have never discussed them in '63 or '65, and I see no reason to discuss them now.

EP:

How many officers would you say were involved in the entire situation, in addition to this special squad of sixteen?

WJ:

Oh, there'd be—at times, I would say there was as many as a hundred in addition. But normally not so; thirty-five or forty normally.

EP:

Did this create problems with the police force in being able to assign this large number of men to a specific area over this period of time and to also continue the general police functions throughout the city?

WJ:

Not a great deal, I don't think. I don't think any of our other services went lacking or any of our other people suffered from the lack of services. It appears when you have a magnitude of one thing it lightens up in another. So therefore, we're blessed with that part of it. But I don't think the general public suffered at all because of lack of service from the police department.

EP:

Returning to this idea of the special squad of sixteen, was that your idea to have this special squad?

WJ:

I'm not positive on that. I imagine it was or was discussed with me. I can't recall just exactly what that was in there, or how that came about. But I do know that I chose—the majority of the people came from, from my division and people that I had worked with and knew which ones, well—

EP:

What would be your assessment of the behavior of the police department at this time?

WJ:

The behavior of the police department? You couldn't have asked them to been any better. These people were gentlemen. They were officers. They did their job. And I have no criticism whatsoever of them, not one bit.

EP:

Was this a special effort on their part or was this how they would have behaved in any situation?

WJ:

The majority of it was the normal, everyday behavior. But I, I feel certain that some of them had to control themselves to the point, because lots of them did take an abuse that they normally wouldn't. And I don't think an officer's put out there to be abused. But I think some of these people actually restrained themselves under certain circumstances to try to handle this in a manner that was, would be acceptable by all and, and not leave a black eye for the city.

EP:

How about the behavior of the demonstrators? How would you characterize their behavior?

WJ:

Well, in the '63, the first night that we made arrests, they—when they were placed under arrest they would flop, and they had to be dragged or toted. At about three o'clock in the morning of the first night, I had a meeting with Ezell Blair, Sr., and two others—and I can't recall just who they were—in my office. And they brought up the fact that we were—mistreated some of the people that we had arrested, because we had dragged them.

And I told Mr. Blair and the others at that time that it was not our intention to mistreat them. But at the same time, when those people deliberately fell to the ground when arrested, that they were mistreating the officers, too. And if they didn't want to be dragged when they were placed under arrest, to walk with the officers and they would not be mistreated.

And after that we had no trouble with it, with that type of thing. It got across to them. They got it to the people and as a result, it was very smooth from there on out.

EP:

What about the behavior of the white hecklers, the individuals the paper termed the “Confederate Cavalry”? Did the police department have much trouble with them?

WJ:

Not a lot. They were there and they stand on the side. But they, too, respected the police department and didn't get in there. There was a group of them in there, the Ku Klux Klan, that they would have liked to have been. And some of the people were actually national office-holders in the Klan. And—but as far as the, I mean, hecklers and things like—very, very few white people participated in it.

And this is another thing that we were able to, to handle it in as quiet a manner as we did. Because the people of the city of Greensboro didn't come down, and they didn't show up, and they didn't interfere. And they didn't antagonize those people.

EP:

The paper has talked about sometimes as many as—crowds of five or six hundred spectators. Do you remember any crowds that large?

WJ:

You would have people along Elm Street, along Greene Street. And you take five hundred people and you spread them out over six or seven blocks, they're not—at no time did the demonstrators have any, any trouble marching up and down the sidewalk. So therefore, you couldn't say, you couldn't say that there were, or that people there were interfering with them. Now normally, the people that were there observing would stand across the street. And there might have been four or five hundred uptown on occasions, but very few, and they didn't, they didn't bother.

EP:

What measures did the police department take to keep the two groups separated and to prevent violence?

WJ:

We had the groups, this, this sixteen that you were talking about, they were circulating among the spectators, and would march in the lines with the group and be as inconspicuous as they could. And if we saw someone there that was giving a little trouble, we let them know that we knew they were there and that we didn't want it. And the results—they got gone.

EP:

Were many of them arrested?

WJ:

No, no, not many, very few, very few.

EP:

Was there ever any need for outside police or law enforcement agencies, such as the state highway patrol or sheriff's deputies to supplement—

WJ:

We did call the highway patrol in for assistance one night. But actually, it wasn't necessary, it didn't turn out to be necessary. We thought it might be. That was the night they sat down at the square.

The sheriff's department was very cooperative. They worked with us in there. But they—as far as coming up and working it, they very seldom was in the line with us except on a special occasion where they sat down or something of that type.

But highway patrol was called in the night they sat in the square. But after it was all over with, it wasn't necessary, we found it wasn't necessary. But the preparedness from the thing could have been what created the illusion that it wasn't necessary for them.

EP:

One of your officers of the special squad, Sgt. Thurmond Melton, mentioned that there were daily briefing sessions prior to each demonstration. Could you discuss what you talked about with your men in these meetings?

WJ:

Normally, prior to each demonstration, we knew what there was to expect. I had met with some of the group, some of them had called me, or other types of information had come in. Now, don't misunderstand me—all the information that came in, I didn't obtain it; it came through other people. I got a portion of it and they got a portion.

And we would get together and we knew, normally knew what they were planning to do. And we would sit down and discuss it, or that portion of it, before we went out. We had a, a ready room at the fire training center there for a while. And we'd have a, kind of get together and we'd let—I'd let them know what we had and what to expect. And we went ahead from there. It was through intelligence gathering and the cooperation of the demonstrators themselves.

EP:

Did CORE [Congress of Racial Equality] contact you about what businesses they had targeted for the march that particular evening?

WJ:

Yeah, members of them. I had Jesse Jackson, William Thomas [CORE chairman]—just, just lots of them. I had contact with them. Asked them, “Well, now, what do you expect and what do you want in this?” And they'd tell you what they'd planned to do. I'd say, “Well, now, this is a violation of law. This is all right. Now if you do this, I'm going to have to arrest you. I'd rather not do it, so let's don't do this.” And they would tell me, “Well, we're going to do that.” And I said, “If you do, then we'll have to arrest you.”

EP:

So they always knew beforehand whether or not they'd be arrested?

WJ:

The majority of the time, yes, sir. We had an understanding with each other. There was never any animosity between myself or my men and those people. No, no. We realized that they were doing something for themselves or trying to better themselves. I had no objections to this, so long as they did it in a lawful manner.

EP:

You mentioned that you talked with some of the leaders, Jesse Jackson, Ezell Blair, Sr., William Thomas. Do you recall what other leaders of the demonstrations or the black community you talked to?

WJ:

Yeah, these national leaders. Farmer.

EP:

James Farmer [founder of CORE]?

WJ:

James Farmer was in here on several occasions. I've talked with him many times. I've had like—one meeting I remember very vividly I had with him was in William Thomas's home, mother's home out on East Market Street. Yeah, I worked with him, talked with him, yeah.

EP:

So you met personally with the leaders of the demonstration—

WJ:

Sure.

EP:

—in their homes?

WJ:

Sure. Anywhere they wanted to meet. On the campus of [North Carolina] A&T [State] University. I had one—they had a meeting down there one night, one afternoon. And they called me and asked me if I would come. I said, “I most certainly will.” And some of the city officials didn't want me to go. They thought it was dangerous for me to go by myself. It didn't make any difference. I drove down on the, on there, parked my automobile, got out and walked into the meeting, in the student union building.

EP:

What sort of things did they want from you at these meetings?

WJ:

They wanted to know what they could do. They wouldn't violate—at this particular meeting they wanted to know what we can do now to bring this thing down to where the community will become peaceful again.

EP:

Were there—the overall impression I have is there were very peaceful demonstrations. There were several instances where there was potential for violence. Was there ever any overt violence that you witnessed?

WJ:

At the square when we arrested that group there, there could have been. And there was a very minor flare up at that particular time. Those—or one individual got a little unruly, and one of my men had taken about all he could. And I just happened to get to the group before my man punched the guy real good. And I caught his arm and we straightened it out. And other than that, there wasn't any.

There was some pushing and some shoving back and forth in that time. But the majority of the people that would give you trouble, or gave us trouble, were not the college students, not the people that were old enough to know, not the people that were well-educated at all or being educated that realized what was going, but those that they had recruited and had blown them up. And they didn't know how to conduct themselves. And that type of people still don't know how to conduct themselves.

EP:

Once again, Sgt. Melton said—made a distinction between very disciplined nature of the students of CORE and the undisciplined nature of just the general pop[ulation]—this element in the adult black population that had not been in on the meetings. Would you characterize it the same way?

WJ:

That's very similar, very similar. That's what I'm saying in it now. You take CORE itself, this boy Thomas, and he also had a brother, Alvin, and he also had a sister [Antoinette], and I can't recall her given name. She taught school, I believe in Alexandria, Virginia, somewhere. Now there are three people that were leaders. And they—I don't know what William Thomas is doing and I don't know what Alvin's doing, but I would say this: All three of them, if they would put their talents in the right channel, Lord knows what they could amount to and what could they become. He had sense and he wasn't a rattle-head. And his brother was the same way, and his sister. And the mother was a—now, the daddy, I don't know if he was living or dead or wasn't, you know. But the ones I met of that family, they were all right.

EP:

So you respected the leadership ability in those people?

WJ:

Sure, I did. Yes, I did. These people did it. And Jesse Jackson wasn't a, a rattle-headed one. It was always my opinion that he was being prepped for his leadership into this thing and being directed by some of the members of the faculty of A&T. And one man in particular.

EP:

So you think they were being directed and led by some members of the faculty?

WJ:

I think, I think he was, yes. I think, I really do. I think he was being—I don't think it was all on, on his initiative himself. Now don't misunderstand me, he had lots on the ball, too. But I think he, he had advisors.

EP:

Do you ever remember any personal conversations you had with any of these individuals?

WJ:

I had so many I, I couldn't recall just specifically ones [unclear].

EP:

Was it pretty much in an official capacity?

WJ:

Yes, yes. I never conducted my—like I said a while ago, my personal feelings, I never did discuss them then. I haven't now. And back then when we were, when we met, it was purely on a business matter as a representative of the city and they, as representatives of the organization trying to achieve something.

EP:

Do you remember the night that—the paper reports that one night at one march you prevented a white man from stabbing one of the marchers by taking a knife away from him and spinning him around and placing him under arrest. Do you remember this incident?

WJ:

I remember it, but the details of it I don't recall too much on it. That, that's the type of thing that happened once in a while. And I don't recall the details on it too much. I remember it happening but other than that I don't know. This thing happened, if I'm not mistaken, it was right near the S&W. And, but the details I can't, don't recall too much.

EP:

Was this a, a rare occurrence or, or—

WJ:

Yes, it was, it was a real rare occurrence. We didn't have—we had very little bit of interference with the outside world and these people in there. We had—the outside—the whites were more against the white participants in the demonstrations than they were the black participants. Where's the—there was a group from over in High Point, the Quaker organization from over there. I can't think of what they called themselves now.

EP:

American Friends Service Committee?

WJ:

Maybe it was over there. And there was one young man from over there and there were several white people in there involved in it and that actually proved out to be Communist. And they were given more a hard time by the white hecklers on the side than the blacks were, directed it at them.

EP:

But you rarely saw any evidence of weapons?

WJ:

No, very few, very few.

EP:

You've mentioned the Klan. Were there, was there much evidence of such groups as the Klan?

WJ:

Oh, yes. We had quite a, quite an active group here at that time of the Klan. George Dorsett, [Red] Webster, Frye[?], several of them, big people in the Klan. And I said earlier that held, held, some of them had, held national offices in the Klan, and they were in there. And they were demonstrating. They'd be on the side. But they knew what to expect from us. And they knew if they came up there and started something, raising their voice and violating the law, that they'd be arrested. And they didn't want to be arrested. Now we did arrest some of them in there, but treated them just exactly like we did anyone else.

EP:

Was there much organization on the part of this group? It sounds like the CORE presence—

WJ:

Oh, yeah. They had a pretty good—you mean, by group, you're talking about the Klan or the—

EP:

The Klan.

WJ:

Yeah. They had a pretty good organization.

EP:

I remember the newspaper quoted one individual who was leading the white counter-protest from south Greensboro and was asked were they organized. And he said no, they just all got together. But you say—

WJ:

This was, this was their philosophy. And they would never tell you that they were an organization. They would never admit that they were an organization, but they were an organization. And they had a—I see some of them now every once in a while. And we're on friendly terms. We get along good. Speak to one another. Laugh about things that happened. And the same way with the black community, too. Lots of them in there I see, and mention this thing here and there.

EP:

Was there ever any activity of police such as keeping individuals or groups under surveillance?

WJ:

Oh, yes. Yes, sir. We did. And some of the sixteen you mentioned about a while ago, this was part of their job. We kept them under surveillance.

EP:

At the scene or, or at other times?

WJ:

Other times, too, yes. We, we, we did not want our town to become known as a place of hell as far as these people were concerned. We wanted to handle it in a manner in which it would, we would say that we handled in a rightful manner rather than carrying on. And we, we did this and kept up with these people as much as possible to know what was going on so we could handle them. Some of the national news media came here—CBS, ABC, television crews and all this type of thing. And I never will forget, we put one of them in jail one night.

EP:

Do you remember the specific reporter?

WJ:

Yes, yes—no, I don't remember his name. I don't remember his name. But I remember the incident. It was down—it started at the Carolina Theatre. And as you know, the city of Greensboro has an ordinance that gives the police officer authority to establish a police line. Now this police line can be an imaginary line or it can be a physical line.

And we were having a little bit of noise at the Carolina Theatre. And we had been at the Center Theatre. And they'd marched down on Greene Street. And then there was something over a radio, someone left their radio up high. And they hollered over the radio there was some little trouble at Washington and Davie Street[s], which [is] two blocks away. And it turned out it was not even related to the demonstration. But everybody made a break to get down there, see what it was.

And so what was happening—and the way you get in trouble is letting people get out of control. So I established a police line, told no one to cross this line. And we drew out a—rope constrictors across Washington Street. And one of these newsmen said he had to get down there and he—and I told him, “You can't go.” And he ducked down and he went under that line. And when he did I grabbed him by the seat of his britches, and I gave him to one of my people, told them to lock him up. And they locked him up.

The next morning he went into court and pled guilty, and taxed the cost and came back out. And he paid the city of Greensboro and the police department the greatest compliments he could have, “You people are the toughest I have ever encountered, but yet the fairest.” And that's, that's the way we tried to operate.

EP:

Well, this is a frequently repeated opinion that I have heard. What exactly do you think prevented Greensboro from being another Birmingham, for instance?

WJ:

Because we, as a city, would not permit it. We kept a lid on it. We knew what was going to happen. We knew that the gangs and the people like you said a while ago, that—we knew—there were hecklers, we knew what to expect of them. We stayed with them. And as a result of it, we didn't—and if we came, if something came up there, we—didn't make any difference to us at that time. We put them in jail if they needed to go to the jail, whether they were black or white or what.

EP:

Was there a, a definite set of charges that if they were violated you would arrest, or was there a tendency to try to avoid arrest if possible?

WJ:

We would not nitpick with the law. If they was breaking a violation, we arrested them. If we could get around it on either side by warning them, “Let's don't do this, let's get away from this, stay away from this,” and they did, then there was no arrest. But if they insisted, then we made the arrest.

EP:

What was the normal procedure on a regular or daily basis on the part of the demonstrators? How would they conduct the usual demonstration?

WJ:

Normally they would come march from the campus up East Market Street. And as they crossed what was then Forbis Street, I believe it's Church Street now, we would have a man there and try to count them, try to get a head count. And, and if we didn't have an idea or—we'd try to have the idea or get the knowledge of how many they were expecting to have prior to this. But anyhow, we'd take a headcount and see what they had, and know about how to handle it and what they had. And sometime we'd have as many as six, seven hundred, and then we may not have but around fifty. But we'd stay with them and keep them on that.

And they would come up Market Street, usually on the south side of East Market Street, by the cafeteria, turn there at Belk's [department store], go down, turn around, come back. And on occasion go down to the Mayfair, Pilot Mayfair Cafeteria, sometimes down to the O. Henry Hotel. And only once did they go around the hotel and around to Greene Street, and that was the night they sat down in front of the city hall annex on Greene Street. And that's the only time they went by there. We didn't have much—but normally, it was right around the square, Market Street, the theatres, down to Greene Street and then the theatre, down that way.

EP:

Did you go along with the marchers as they marched, or did you meet them at the sites that they were marching toward?

WJ:

I would usually pick them up, the leaders, about Davie and Greene [Streets]—and Market Street. And I'd stay right with the front and the leaders of them there. And we'd have a conversation on, on—during the march, find out if anything was changing or happening. And lots of time I would pick them up at Forbis Street and take them. It depended on how many we had.

EP:

Did you ever notice any change in tactics during the course of the demonstrations?

WJ:

Not a great deal. There at the latter part of it, they began to get, be a little, little more secretive about what they were doing, and information began to get a little, little tighter. But not a great deal, no.

EP:

Sgt. Melton mentioned that at the beginning of the demonstrations it was a pretty relaxed attitude. He said even some of the officers would sing along the same songs as the, as the demonstrators. He indicated, though, right about at the end of the demonstrations—around June fifth, sixth, where they had the big sit-downs at Greene and, and at Jefferson Square, that the situation had changed, because both groups were tired and the tension had built up. Did you see it this way?

WJ:

Well, as I said a minute ago, the information began to get a little bit thin and the tensions were growing a little bit. But there again is where our meetings each evening or afternoon helped.

And you know, some of our, our people, we, we had cots set up out there at the fire training station, and all the rest we got was right there. It wasn't anything unusual for me to not spend the night here two, three nights at a time. And I had, first I had me a cot I carried from my house and I came and put it in my office, and when I'd get a chance I'd lay down. And then the city bought a bunch of army folding cots, and we set up out there for the men where they could get some rest. And we fed them, fed the men out there and they had to bring what they could.

And you take a man away from his home and his people, and dealing with other people that are doing something that's, you know—it's almost like taking a personal situation there. And it, it, it—tension began to bear, but not a great deal. I mean, I'll have to say, I pat them on the back—the restraint they were able to hold, control themselves, the strength they exercised brilliantly.

EP:

How many hours per day would you say you put in during the course of the demonstrations?

WJ:

I'm going to say I averaged better than eighteen hours, better than eighteen hours.

EP:

Was most of this spent on the site of the demonstration or was it divided up between planning sessions?

WJ:

It was divided up between. And I, I tried to run my other division business, too, from there, and had that there. And you'd be surprised at the number of conferences with these people we had, the conferences with the professors from the university, A&T, conferences with ministers, conference with lawyers, students. And, and I always made myself available to them regardless of when it was or what it was. And we sat down and we'd talk.

And I think this is where we were able to handle it, when we made ourselves available to these people. As I said a while ago, if they wanted me to go to their home and sit down and talk to them, sure, I'd go. If they wanted to go to the church, I'd go. If they wanted to go to their school, I'd go.

EP:

Were you ever threatened or intimidated in any way?

WJ:

No, not during the '63 [demonstrations], no. Later on when we had another confrontation at A&T and some of the people in here, the only time I ever walked away from having my hind end kicked. And I walked away there, rather than create something that I, I felt would cause a tremendous confrontation. And I took care of that a little later on—not physically. I put the dugan's hind end in jail. And he turned out to be a president of the student body at A&T also, but it wasn't Jesse Jackson.

EP:

Did you—what was the arrest procedure in '63?

WJ:

The same as anyone else, the same thing. We put them, let them—booked them and filled out our papers and—the same as anybody else.

EP:

I was thinking specifically of the actual physical procedure, particularly—

WJ:

This is a, this is a—it would depend on how many we were arresting. It had something—in fact, we had to set up a situation at the [Greensboro] Coliseum to fingerprint, picture them, process them as we call it. And then distribute them over there to a place of keeping.

EP:

You mentioned the first time that you arrested they, they went limp—

WJ:

Yeah.

EP:

—and they had to be dragged. But, in the future, they—

WJ:

They would walk. They'd go along. Most of them would move along.

EP:

They would get on buses and—

WJ:

Oh yeah. Well, they'd get on the buses in there. And some of this, this group that I was telling you about that were not from the college, but the outsiders, they had gathered in for a number—heads to be counted, you might say. They tore up some of the buses, cut the seats and that type of thing. And at the booking center at the Coliseum there, we had one girl spit in one of the officer's eye, face or something, carried on like that.

And we ran across several in there that—I know one, for instance, a capeas [habeas corpus?] was issued because one failed to show in court, and we had the picture to go along with it. And I went down on the east side and this very modest home, nice home, well kept. A lady came to the door, and I introduced myself and told her. She said, “I know who you are, Captain Jackson. Come in.” And as I went in I told her I had a capeas there for her daughter. And the daughter came to the—she said, “Captain Jackson,” said, “I wasn't up there.”

Of course, I hadn't seen the child that night. If I know—if I did, I didn't know it. And, and I took a picture out and looked at it and it was not her. And she told me who it was. And it was a girl that had been up here visiting, from Oxford I believe, and had used that child's name. And that type of thing we had to deal with quite a bit.

Now, we photographed each one of them, fingerprinted them, a record, just like anyone else. We fulfilled the requirements of the state in our arrests.

EP:

Had you planned for the vehicles to be there to take the people from the beginning, or did you—

WJ:

No, no, not at the beginning, no. No, no, no. This developed during the demonstrations and they were standing by.

EP:

I see. You realized you would have large numbers.

WJ:

Yeah. And then, and then we actually commandeered one or two as it came by. At that time, you probably have heard that the square was the, Market and Elm Street, was where the majority of the people boarded public transportation and was discharged there.

EP:

Right there at Belk.

WJ:

Yes sir. Belk's, and across the corner on the Jefferson side, and over on the Northeastern Building[?] there, and over next to what was Liggett's Drugstore then, over on that side. On three of the, four of those corners, all four corners.

EP:

Did you ever go to any of the detention centers?

WJ:

Oh, yeah. Yes, sir. Sure did.

EP:

What was your opinion of the conditions there?

WJ:

Were not, were not bad at all, not bad at all. For instance, we set up the county home where the polio hospital had been. And if the cooperation between the people that were incarcerated had been half that what the city and the state was trying to do, it would have been nice, been all right. Of course, they would mess up anything under the circumstances. But as a whole, it wasn't bad at all. No, sir.

EP:

Do you think that the sheriff's deputies acted with the same restraint that the city police—

WJ:

Yeah, very, very much so. [unclear] I can't complain about the sheriff's deputies' action at all. No, no. They were treated all right. And the ones in the jail, in the city or in the Guilford County jail and ones—see, we maintained the jail ourselves at that time. And we had some in High Point. We had some as far away as Lexington. And they were all right. They were. I can't say—I couldn't say there was anything wrong with it.

EP:

Could you describe the situation the Sunday afternoon that a large group of people came out to the polio hospital and sang songs and had speeches?

WJ:

Yeah. Yeah. Yeah, there was a big group out there, and they would have liked to have caused confrontations—some of them that night, that afternoon. And I remember there was around on this, not the Huffine Mill Road side, but the Bessemer Avenue side of the place there, one girl apparently fainted. And I went to her and tried to [unclear]. And some young man there grabbed my hand and tried to throw it across the street, objecting to me assisting the young lady.

I didn't say anything. I got on up and got them on out. And we were able to get them away but there was not a, not a whole lots of trouble there that I recall in there. But there was a big bunch of people around there.

EP:

The paper makes a special point of saying that they started singing the national anthem, and that this was very important because it could be a confrontation scene or a cooperative scene. And that it was your decision to salute by placing your hand over your heart, which made it a cooperative scene. They mentioned that at another time at the S&W when—earlier—when they had wanted to sing the national anthem, and you did not salute because it was a different—you had decided it was a different situation. Could you give me some idea of your thinking at that time?

WJ:

We—under the, under the circumstances that were existing at that time, we respected both their anthem and their prayers unless it appeared that this was a decoy for something else. And if this thing appeared in this manner, we, we, we would conduct ourselves as officers. But we respected their prayers and we respected their anthem when they sang it, as long as we did not think it was in a vain sense.

EP:

What was the sit[uation]—can you recall the situation at S&W when you chose not to interpret it this way? And what was it that it was being used as a decoy for?

WJ:

No, I can't recall right offhand just what that was. But I do know that this is one of the things we instructed our people, to respect the national anthem and respect their prayers so long as we could.

EP:

By respecting their prayers you mean participating in the prayers or—

WJ:

No, by showing reverence to the situation.

EP:

This situation occurred on a Sunday afternoon. And the paper indicates there was another time when another group came out to the polio hospital. And it was about the third time that day that a group had come out, and that they were tired, and that a woman berated you at some length. And that you approached a young man, a young black student, who then assumed leadership for the group and took them back to the campus. Do you remember that incident?

WJ:

Yes. I remember that instance. It was where she got all over me, and rather than to—as far as personally [unclear], that didn't bother me. Having been a police officer as long as I was, I was used to that thing. And I didn't take it as a personal situation. And I saw this young man that I knew and realized what it was. And I talked to him and told him what I thought would be best, and if he could get them all. And he led them on out into that part of it.

But this thing happened quite frequently. And you have to, in cases like that I've found that you have to be able to select individuals every once in a while to, to talk with and ask them to lead on out. And this same thing happened. This is one of the cases that you're talking about.

EP:

Were these two separate events or did they occur on the same day?

WJ:

I believe this was on the same day and there were, there were—but that day, like I said, this started early in the morning out there and ended up way late in the afternoon.

EP:

Do you think that it was the plan of the students to deliberately be arrested and so flood the police department as to cause a, a breakdown of the procedure such that there would—

WJ:

They, they were hoping for this, yes. They were hoping for this. But this didn't, didn't, didn't happen.

[End Tape 1, Side A—Begin Tape 2, Side B]

EP:

I know that the decision to release the students into the custody of A&T and Bennett [College] resulted in the release of most of these people on their own recognizance or that of the institution. Was this something that was on the part of solely Judge [Herman G.] Enochs, or did you have any input into that decision?

WJ:

No. When, when, when things like that was done, we would all discuss it and see what we have would be best. And as well as I recall on that thing, I saw no reason to, you know, continue to hold them [unclear].

EP:

Did you work closely with city officials and the police administration on this?

WJ:

Oh, yes, yes. Very, very close.

EP:

What was the substance of the meetings that you would have with these individuals?

WJ:

What I thought would might be better to do this or that or the other to handle the situation more easily, and what was taking place; what they could do, what they could suggest. I believe Mr. [David] Schenck was the mayor. And he was a magnificent individual to work with, understanding on both the part of the police department and of the individual who was seeking their rights.

EP:

So you think he was fair, rather than hardline?

WJ:

Yes, sir, he certainly was. He certainly was. David Schenck is, of course, dead and gone now, but he's a man to, to be admired along that line. He certainly is.

And the police department was there—I kept them informed. I kept my superiors informed as to what was going on, what they could expect and what we were expecting, and what we were doing—and along with the city manager, the city attorney, the mayor and all. And it wasn't anything unusual for us all to get together and sit down and discuss the situation. And it was going so well, even though we were preparing places for jail, there was no reason for any confrontation between individuals in this group at all. No. Everything was beautiful. You couldn't ask for it nicer.

EP:

What was your opinion of how Police Chief Paul Calhoun handled the situation?

WJ:

Paul Calhoun gave me the authority to run as I saw fit, and he backed me 100 percent.

EP:

Yet he didn't interject his authority—

WJ:

He, he would—if he had a suggestion, he came to me with it and [unclear] and we worked it out together. No, he did not come right in and say, “We are going to do this, that, or the other.” No, no. Paul wasn't that kind of individual.

EP:

Do you remember any of his specific suggestions?

WJ:

No, I don't right offhand, no.

EP:

Do you remember any of your suggestions to the city officials about how best to handle the situation?

WJ:

No, I—that's something I really don't recall because it's been a long time. [laughs]

EP:

Could you discuss the circumstances surrounding the night of June fifth when the students sat down at the Greene—on Greene Street?

WJ:

That night they came around the hotel and down into Greene Street and they sat-in. And this was a little surprise situation. We didn't exactly know that this was going to happen. And there was—sat down in the middle of the street out there, and we tried to get them out and couldn't. And Jackson, Jesse Jackson, at that time actually incited a disturbance by his actions and by his words.

EP:

Was incitement to riot a serious charge at the time?

WJ:

Yes, it was. It could be—

EP:

Was it a felony?

WJ:

Yes, I believe it w[as]—I believe incitement to riot is a felony. I believe, if I'm not mistaken, I believe it was. Like I say, it's been a while back and I'm—but I believe it was in there. And we discussed this situation with him and finally got them to move on out. And Jackson was not arrested that night. He was arrested the next morning after a warrant was obtained.

And that particular night there was more trouble and more words, and tempers were beginning to get short too, for many people. And there was more words and things passed between myself and some of the others in the department that were ranked above me but not, did not have the authority that I had at that particular time. Even though I was a captain, as far as that demonstration was concerned and the controlling the operation of that thing, I ranked above, in authority, above some of the lieutenant colonels.

EP:

You were describing the sit—the march where they got to the city hall and then I interrupted with the charge of incitement. Could you continue from that point and give a detailed description of what happened that night?

WJ:

As best I recall, they came around and stopped and they started singing, and then Jackson made a statement. And the statement is—what was said, I can't recall. But then they all flopped on the street. And I went to Jackson and asked him to get them out of there and not to do that. And he went ahead anyhow.

And then, back in there, there was some of the State Bureau of Investigation people there, and one of our people there that ranked above me, as far as rank is concerned. And I know he and I are real good friends today, and we were then. But I told him to shut his mouth and get out of there. And he wanted to proffer charges, departmental, about me for telling him to shut his mouth, because he ranked—that didn't, as far as I was concerned, I didn't give a damn whether he did it or not. Pardon the expression.

But—and then we, later on we issued a warrant for Jackson. And the next morning, down in the church close to where Hargett's Funeral Home is now [Church of the Redeemer], we went, I went over there alone with the warrant. And he was holding a service of some kind in the chapel of the church. And I went to the door and I recognized the fact that he was holding a religious service.

I came back outside and there was a young man who came out there. And I told him, “When Jackson finishes in there, tell him I want to see him.” And I waited there on the steps. And when he finished his service, he came out the door, and [when] he did I placed him under arrest, put him in the car, and he and I came to town.

EP:

There's a picture of you shaking his hand in the newspaper. Did you—and you had expressed some feeling that you thought he used this as a—was using the media, or using this to get as much publicity as possible.

WJ:

Well, this is probably true. And it is, I think it is true. The news media did not know that I was going there. And this picture was not taken by the Daily News or Record representative. It was taken by a man from the college that was placed there to take this thing.

EP:

Did you go along with this? I mean, did you recognize that this was what it was?

WJ:

I did, I did not pose or do anything to cooperate with the man. I conducted my business in a businesslike manner as an officer, and that was it. And he snapped his pictures of it going on. I had no control of him over snapping the pictures. But I did not pose and I did not stand there for him. And I did not instruct him that I was being there. This was a set up situation.

EP:

Were you contacted as to where Jesse Jackson would be that next morning?

WJ:

I had information that he would be at the church, yeah.

EP:

I see.

WJ:

After, after making a call or two.

EP:

The—did the police have independent sources of information other than when CORE would call them?

WJ:

Oh, sure, sure, sure.

EP:

Would this—

WJ:

It's a poor police officer doesn't have some informants!

EP:

[laughs] So you had some contacts in the black community?

WJ:

Oh, certainly, certainly, certainly. Yes, sir. Fine individuals, people down there who were interested in the same thing we were interested in, and at the same time interested in the same thing the students were interested in.

EP:

How about that from the other side? Did you have these same kind of informants for the groups like the KKK or the counter-demonstrators?

WJ:

Why, certainly, sure, sure, sure. We, we were not, not like a chief of police in an eastern North Carolina town told me, asked me one day, he said, “Is it true that the Greensboro police department is so scientific now they don't have to use informants?” And it shocked me so I liked to fell out of my chair. I said, “Well, Chief, the most scientific thing we've got are our informants.”

No. We had, we had the people with the contact with these people placed in there. And they were eager to help us and work with us. And you've got to have those. You've got to have them.

EP:

Would you characterize these people as undercover, or is that too—

WJ:

No, no. They were just concerned citizens, the majority. They weren't being paid for by us. Not one penny was ever spent for it. At that time, at that time I didn't even have a, a fund that I could pay an informant if I wanted to. If I'd have had to paid one, I'd had to have taken it out of my pocket. And I'll tell you, at that time I couldn't have taken it out of my pocket.

EP:

Sgt. Melton said that the next morning you and he and the city attorney and chief of police and several others got together to actually carefully word the warrant. Was that when the determination of what the charge would be was made or had that already been made?

WJ:

The determination is what the charge would be as far as the title of it's concerned. But the wording of the warrant, the citing of the incident, this was, had to be done correctly. Because see, they were, they were picking at the, nitpicking, you might say, there to get to you. And we wanted our warrant to be correct. That's why.

EP:

Do you think that that meant that the city was actually seeking for a conviction?

WJ:

We were looking for something for a deterrent for any further outbreaks. And if this is what it took, then this is where we were at.

Now we did not draw that warrant up just to be drawing a warrant up. It was drawn up because the law had been violated. And it had been violated and then we, it need to be, something be done about it. And this is why we drew the warrant up, and this is why we made the arrest.

But at the same time, this case I don't think ever came to court. I don't think it ever came to court, the best I can recall. But that's beside the point. It served its purpose. And under the circumstances, I think it was all right to have taken a nol pros [nolle prosequi, dismiss charges] in the case.

EP:

Given the fact that you said an even more tense situation happened the night, next night in, in Jefferson Square, was there any feeling in that part to then seek out the leader of that demonstration and charge them with a similar charge?

WJ:

No, because there wasn't an act at the time this happened there. It was different then all together than what it was with Jackson.

EP:

Could you describe that night?

WJ:

If I'm not mistaken and I recall correctly, Jackson was in jail on that particular night. And they came up and there was a great number of them, maybe it was more than fifteen hundred or more. And they came up Market Street to Elm Street, turned and went down by the O. Henry Hotel, turned back, came back in. And you could see the jail back in there, and came back by the S&W Cafeteria—I mean, not the S&W, the Mayfair, and back up to the square. And when they got to the square, they came down there. And they gathered in the square, and somebody said sit down. And when they did, they sat down. And when they did, I stood up on the bumper of a car there and told them who I was. “You are now—either you get up and leave, and if you do not, you'll be arrested.” And they didn't move. And I said, “Then you're all under arrest.” And a cadre of police officers circled them and we arrested them.

EP:

Were all the people who sat down arrested?

WJ:

Yes, sir, unless someone snuck out from under a line that we didn't detect. Yes, sir. It didn't make any difference who they were.

EP:

Were there any people who got up and, and moved out? In other words, choosing not to be arrested?

WJ:

Yes. Yeah. Yeah. There were one or two of them, some of them who did that. Yeah.

EP:

But most of them obeyed instructions [unclear—both talking at once].

WJ:

Yeah. Yeah. Right. Now that, that night tempers flared a little bit. And as I said earlier there, one of my men had taken about all he could and he was throwing punches. And I happened to get there just in time enough to stop anything or something, it could have caused something. And I, I, I'll have to say this. The man was justified. He wasn't put out there to be abused. And we weren't abusing them.

EP:

But you say there was a lot of verbal abuse.

WJ:

Oh, yes, yes, there was. On that particular night there was. There was an ex-police officer in that thing that night. And—

EP:

You mean as one of the demonstrators.

WJ:

Demonstrators, yeah. And he, he caused lots of something with his mouth in there.

EP:

We had talked earlier about that this one reporter was arrested for breaking a police line. What was the general nature of the press? Were they pretty cooperative?

WJ:

Yeah. They weren't bad at all. Most of them were pretty, pretty cooperative. When a group of reporters came from out of town, they were normally told that I was in charge of it. And I would get together with those people. And I'd give them, and give them what I had. And I told them, would tell them, newcomers to town, what they could expect of us and what I would, what we would expect of them. I mean by that their conduct, what we would expect in their conduct.

And for instance, in front of the Center Theatre one night, we had to make several arrests there. And some of those people came in there and they put those floodlights in my eyes, into my men's eyes. And I called their hand on it right quick. And that happened no more.

Now this, this should not be done by a newsperson. I like for them to get the pictures. I like for them to get in there. But don't interfere with the operation of that officer. And we, we had a good understanding. No, no trouble. The news people, news people get along pretty good. I'd say that they did.

EP:

Now there was a large silent march on the seventh. This is after the two nights of the, of the large sit-downs. And then, apparently, the demonstrations ceased. Did your special unit and your monitoring situation continue for some time after that?

WJ:

Oh, yeah. We, we—the monitoring end of it continued right on through. And we stayed right with that. But see, then school was out and the majority of them went away and went home. And this closed—calmed it down a tremendous amount.

EP:

How about the adult members of the black community? Did they continue with—

WJ:

No, no. They, they continued verbally with the press and things like that, but not marching uptown or nothing of that type of thing. No, not to my thinking, no.

EP:

There were no more mass—

WJ:

No. And you see, along about this time is when the K&W—or the S&W, S&W Cafeteria admitted. And the theatres admitted. And things were beginning to be worked out on the political end of it and where they were being accepted. And things worked out and smoothed right off.

EP:

I know the paper indicates that there were again some picketing of the Oaks Motel on Summit Avenue and the Travelodge Motel downtown on Church Street—

WJ:

Well, this was a small situation, and it didn't amount to a whole lot. And there was no trouble. And that worked out, too.

EP:

Did you cover that situation?

WJ:

Yes, we covered the whole business.

EP:

When did you return to your regular duties?

WJ:

Well, I never left my regular duties. I tried to handle them along with these other things, too. And it was some time after, say, the middle of June that it began to get down to the point where I'd come home in the evening and go back to work the next morning and work there. Somewhere right around the middle of June, I reckon it was.

EP:

Did you go down on the, to the downtown area while the demonstrations were going on on a daily basis or just as you received information that there was going to be a demonstration?

WJ:

We knew what was going to take place. And if we heard that they were going to come in town, needed to be downtown, then we were downtown. If we needed to be at the Memorial Stadium [at the Coliseum], if we needed to be at Dudley High School, that's where we were, according to our information. And it didn't make any difference. If we needed to be at the polio hospital, that's where we were. And it was a, it was a—we had no routine. It was where our information and intelligence directed us.

EP:

Now was this squad of sixteen stationed full-time out at the fire training center?

WJ:

That was our headquarters. That's where we operated as a headquarters after, oh, maybe the first week of it. And then we worked out of there from there on.

EP:

Now in the verbal arrest of Jesse Jackson that night—I know he wasn't actually arrested until the next morning—was it you, specifically, who arrested him or one of your officers?

WJ:

That night or the next morning?

EP:

That night.

WJ:

Night? Yeah, I talked with him that night, I did twice, yes, sir.

EP:

The conversation that's recorded in the newspaper was something along the fact that you said, are quoted in the newspaper as saying, “You're messing up now, Jesse.” And he responded, “No, it's them who are messing up, Captain Jackson.” Is this how you recall it?

WJ:

Yeah, as well as I can recall it is. I know it was the—it was not the—the choice of words were not as great as it could have been at that time. And I, and I probably did, as well as I can recall, I did tell him you were messing up. And then he, he pointed to the city hall and then told his people all that.

EP:

I know that one of the arguments that his lawyer either made or was planning to make at the trial was that when the police blocked off the streets, that—he was trying to argue that gave tacit permission for them to go into the street. What was your feeling on that? Were the streets blocked off?

WJ:

We never blocked the, the, their passage.

EP:

You mean cars did continue to go back and forth downtown?

WJ:

We didn't—we never blocked it off. We never blocked off to prohibit them from marching.

EP:

Oh, I'm, I'm—I mean the vehicular traffic is what I was saying. Was that blocked off?

WJ:

No, we didn't—yeah. When they got into the street they blocked it off.

EP:

Oh. But, but the police did not block the people.

WJ:

No, no, no, no, no.

EP:

I see. There was some mention in the paper that traffic was diverted away from the path of march.

WJ:

We did that lots. We'd divert the traffic away. And we would inconvenience a citizen. And we did this, again, for the simple reason as it was the well-being of our community.

EP:

I'd like to—what was the relationship between the police force and the black community after the demonstrations were over? Was it about the same, better, worse?

WJ:

I don't think it was any animosity between the, additional animosity between them at all. I don't think this created anything more. And if anything, I think it might have mellowed the black community a little more towards the police department. But you see, a couple of years after that, then we had another situation at the college [A&T]. And things were not as easy as they had been prior. But the, but the 1963 doings, I'm going to say I think, I think maybe it might have helped some.

EP:

You had mentioned that you went to the house of one student and discovered that she, indeed, was not the person you were really seeking. Did you talk much with the parents of these students or try to find out the location in which their children were being held or, or anything like this?

WJ:

Yes. Any, any time I had contact from a parent or anyone else wanting to know about the child, we did our utmost to inform them as to where they were.

EP:

Do you think there was a pretty good feeling on the part of the parents and the police or—

WJ:

Under the circumstances, I'd say yes. Yes.

EP:

I'd like to turn now to the disturbances at A&T in 1969 as an outgrowth of the disturbances at Dudley High School. It's my understanding you were in charge of that situation also.

WJ:

No, no, no, no. That is a situation that I was not in charge of, and a situation that was handled and my people were used, but I was informed very little of it, as the activities. Some of the activities, some of the things that happened afterwards or during it, I did have to handle and was more than glad to do it. But the actual handling of the police department of the men and the deployment of the men used around the college, I was not in charge of that, no.

EP:

There's some feeling in the black community that the, they felt the police were not as—of course, this was a situation there was active firing of weapons, a much different situation than 1963. But they, the police force, for the first time came under some criticism by some elements in the black community that they didn't behave with the same sort of restraint in '63. Could you comment on the changed situation? What factors were different?

WJ:

It was a little difference in the fact that these people in '69 were not after the same thing the people were in '63. There was a different attitude on their part and all. And we had officers shot. They were shooting at us. And our officers in return fired back into them. There was one young man, a student at A&T, killed there on the campus [Willie Grimes]. Whether or not he was killed by a police officer or someone on the campus, I do not know.

EP:

There was no way—

WJ:

No way in this world to, to, to determine. And I would have to say that it was, that it was a minimum of 75/25, that—percent—that he was killed by someone on the campus, rather than by a police officer.

Now, it became my duty to call on his parents and inform them in their home down in the eastern part of the state. And those people—I have never talked with anyone more genuine and wholesome than they were, and understanding. And the father says, “I sent that boy to school. I paid his room in a nice home where he'd be away from this stuff and told him to stay away from it. And look what has happened.” And it was the type of people you couldn't help but appreciate having known and talked with.

And it's the same thing. We had a police officer, two police officers and a reserve officer, shot there one night. And one of our police officers will be carrying a disabled arm and hand for the rest of his life. And if he would die today it wouldn't surprise me at all, as a result of that thing, from the fragments of metal that was left, had to be left in his body from that thing. And this wasn't—

EP:

How did you first become aware of the situation in 1969?

WJ:

Through the, some of the members of the police department there. I was not looking after that at that time. And somebody told me that. And I did not have charge of that.

EP:

It's my understanding that this started by a controversy over the election of the student body president at Dudley High School, and that police officers were sent there to maintain order.

WJ:

They was over there. I was at the Dudley High School after the thing happened over there, they called me in there. And the president of the A&T student body—

EP:

Do you recall his name?

WJ:

No, I can't recall his name right now. I'd know it if I heard it but I can't [Vincent McCullough]. And the last time I heard from him he was wanted, being looked for nationally for fraud. He had swindled the American Express Company out of thousands of dollars. And he had got a scholarship to some law school and it turned out this way.

He incited this thing over there. And this boy, Nelson Johnson, around town here was involved in this thing. And he was one to sit back and incite by his directions of do this and that and the other. And then one of the professors at the college was involved in it to a degree, too, and this thing, the A&T—Dudley High School was carrying on over there.

And I was over there quite a bit. And that's where I said I walked away from having my hind end kicked, and the president of the student body is one of the ones [unclear].

EP:

Did you send the six officers over to Dudley when the, when the disturbances first occurred or the day that those disturbances occurred?

WJ:

I don't recall whether I sent them over there or I was sent—told to go over afterwards or not. I'm not sure. I don't know—don't recall that.

EP:

Once again, Sgt. Melton was one of those six officers. And he said that the group charged—

WJ:

He probably, he—if Sgt. Melton was on it, I probably did send them, because he was working with me. And I had great faith in Sgt. Melton, and I still do.

EP:

What actions occurred after that disturbance at the high school that led up to the exchange of gunfire on, at the A&T campus?

WJ:

Well, there was a wreck in front of Dudley High School and at the driveway of Lincoln Junior High School, which was across the street. And I always will believe that that wreck was set up to involve me. But instead of getting me, another car pulled around and got hit instead.

EP:

You mean you thought someone was trying to run into you?

WJ:

I think it was set up for them to run into me.

EP:

So, they were specifically trying to—

WJ:

That's right. That's right. And the, and the professor of A&T, at A&T College had stopped, was out there in his car, and he stopped me and I was just talking to him. And what happened, I didn't move when I should have moved. And a car went around me, and the car then backed out into the street and hit them. And I think, I always will believe and believe to this day that, believed then and this day, too, that they were set up to hit me.

And they were trying to get a confrontation between the police officers and some of the students. And the officers [that] came to investigate the wreck were there, and they actually tried to get something started with one of their uniformed officers investigating the wreck at that time. And from there it went and moved onto the campus.

EP:

Sgt. Melton indicated that two officers were ambushed. Do you recall that incident?

WJ:

Yeah. They were over there off of the campus—Malone Saul[?], an officer, one of them, was shot. There was another one. I don't recall who the other one was. And someone shot them with a shotgun back in there. But now I was not over there that night and I don't know too much. And this is a situation [that] was set up that I had no knowledge of and didn't know what was going on into that part.

EP:

When did you go to the campus?

WJ:

When did I? My first trip to the campus, the college campus, was when our three officers were shot. And they were laying over there, one of them laying over there on the ground about to die. And a man called for some help, somebody to come and get him. The ambulance wouldn't go get him.

And I was on the out fringe, on the outside as an individual, but still as an officer though. And I heard him beg for somebody to come in. There wouldn't nobody go get him. And I said, well, I'll go get you myself. And I went in and got him. And I got him out of there.

And one other, Sgt. [Walter] Poplin, was shot through the muscle of his left shoulder and laid open where you could stick your fist in it. Sutton, Sgt. [James] Sutton—he's a sergeant now, he wasn't then—was shot through the chest. And a reserve officer [Glenn Jackson] was shot in the leg. And I got them loaded into the car and I came out of there and ran to the hospital. And that was my first trip to there.

EP:

Did you come under fire at that time?

WJ:

Not me, no. No one fired at me. If they did—if they fired at me, I didn't know it.

[laughter]

EP:

Sgt. Melton says that he was in a squad of men that were sent to arrest students who were vandalizing the student union building. Did you send him in there?

WJ:

No, sir, I did not. That was why I say this was being handled by somebody else. I did not send anybody in there. I had no command over people other than myself. I did not know that the National Guard was going in there until I happened to go by their armory and they were gathering out there the next morning, the morning they went in there.

EP:

Could you describe—obviously, high-powered weapons were being used.

WJ:

Yeah.

EP:

And that none of them were discovered.

WJ:

In my opinion, Nelson Johnson and some others that were ramrodding this thing smuggled those things out between the time that the, these officers were shot and the guard went in.

EP:

Did the police have a tight cordon around Scott Hall? How, how did they get the weapons and the people who [unclear]?

WJ:

They were cordoned around there, but in my opinion, it wasn't tight enough.

EP:

Was anyone ever charged or imprisoned as a result of these activities?

WJ:

No, no, not to my recollection.

EP:

How many nights are we talking about of rioting and shooting, one or two nights?

WJ:

Not over two, and I, I can't recall exactly. I believe one. I'm not sure. I can't remember right offhand. I can't remember.

EP:

Did the disturbances come to a conclusion pretty quickly after that?

WJ:

Yes, after that, yes. They came down there.

EP:

Could you describe in detail this confrontation you had with the president of the student body at A&T in which you said you walked away rather than—

WJ:

He was in the gym standing up on a table trying to instruct these kids as to what to do and how to do and what to—carry on over there. And I walked in there and the, one of the officials of the school was with me. And I walked in there and I told him that he would have to leave. He was not a student there and he had no business with the schools, and therefore he was trespassing. And they got off—

EP:

Was this at, at Dudley?

WJ:

Yeah. Yeah. And they came down from there and got off the table. And I started to move on. And they moved. And as I did they, wham. And that's what it was, what it amounted to.

EP:

You mean he struck you.

WJ:

Yeah, from the, from the rear.

EP:

And then, and then what occurred?

WJ:

I kept on walking out, because under the circumstances—the only law enforcement officers at that time [who] were there or anywhere around there was me. And there was a, a school official was there. There's a time and a place for all things, and it wasn't, that wasn't the place to me to make an arrest.

EP:

What—

WJ:

Because I think I could have really and truly—it would really and truly set off a, a heck of a confrontation if I had have. And under the circumstances, I handled it as I thought was best.

EP:

How did it—you say that you resolved that at a later date. How, how was it resolved?

WJ:

I didn't know his name at that time. And then when I—on the morning after the National Guard went in, dropped the tear gas down there to the A&T campus, I was sitting there on the campus and he passed by. And I saw him. I was there in the company of an FBI agent. And I told him, I said, there goes this man right there that was at Dudley, I had trouble with over there. And who is it? He told me.

And we went and got a warrant for him. And he was living then in a house directly behind the Daily News. Went down there and arrested him and brought him back. And never will forget on the way up to the police station he was, he informed me he was going to sue me for everything he could think of. Well, I haven't been sued yet. But, anyhow—and after that we, we even, he and I became friends. [laughs]

EP:

Is that right?

WJ:

Yeah.

EP:

Was he charged with assaulting an officer?

WJ:

No, no, no. I think we charged him with trespassing over there. I believe that's what it was. No, he wasn't charged with—I tell you. I was a police officer for over thirty-six years and I never charged a man once with assaulting me. I've been assaulted, but I never charged one with it.

EP:

What was that situation?

WJ:

What?

EP:

What was that situation?

WJ:

I said I never did charge one with one.

EP:

Oh, sorry.

WJ:

Never did charge a man with assaulting me.

EP:

Why were you selected to go and talk to the parents of the boy who was killed?

WJ:

I think they must have thought that I would be able to conduct myself in such a manner that it would be acceptable by these people.

EP:

Do you know any of the circumstances of how he was killed?

WJ:

He was on the campus somewhere near the greenhouse, the school of agriculture over there, in that part in the corner. And I went over there after this thing was over and searched, and saw the spot in the diagrams, and made diagrams of the situation to familiarize myself with it. And as I can gather by interviewing the men, there was lots of shooting on both sides on that day. And that's why I say—but the angle, and where the man was, and from where the police officers was—that's why I say it was a 75 percent chance that he was hit from the campus and a 25 percent chance he could have been hit from the, by police.

EP:

But the bullet or weapon was never found.

WJ:

No. It was a, it was a shotgun pellet. And there's no striation marks on them and no identification to be made from them. You can't tell.

EP:

What—how did the incident conclude out at A&T?

WJ:

The conclusion there, after the National Guard came in, the majority of those people were gotten off the campus. And we went into the dormitory, Scott Hall, and went from room to room. And we found ammunition, empty shells all over the place up there. It was like a, the dormitory was like a hog pen.

EP:

You mean it was really—

WJ:

Filthy.

EP:

—filthy conditions.

WJ:

Filthy. Filthy. And this wasn't a nice place for anybody to be. It was just in—ammunition was all over the place up in there. And I believe, I believe we found one rifle still laying in a hallway up there, a .22 rifle. But there were some high-powered rifles in there. They shot to hit. Sutton was a tremendous rifle.

EP:

Do you think these were Vietnam veterans, perhaps?

WJ:

No, no, no, no, no. I don't think Vietnam had anything to do with that at all. I don't think they had anything to with that at all, no.

EP:

Were there any other racial disturbances in which you were associated?

WJ:

I don't recall any [unclear] there.

EP:

Was there any major disturbance in 1968 upon the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.?

WJ:

No, no. There was this little demonstration and there was—they marched into the, up to the county courthouse and burned somebody in effigy up there, effigy, whatever you call it, and come back. And there wasn't much that was going on there. And there was—and I don't remember, don't believe we made any arrests in that night. I know that particular night Carson Bain was the mayor at that time. And we had a meeting prior to that and it got a little heated. But everything worked out all right on it. But Martin Luther King's assassination didn't start that.

And I noticed in the paper where Martin Luther King came and they—and said he couldn't go to State—A&T because of the political situation and talk, but he went to Bennett. My recollection, Martin Luther King was never here but once, and he spoke at the Coliseum. And I was told then by some black leaders that he would never come back, because they were unable to get enough money together.

In 1963, Martin Luther King was supposed to make the graduation address at Bennett College. And I had things set up there and I was going to be on the stage with him and work with him and try to make things straight. And he didn't show up. And the president of the Bennett College, a young black woman, very fine individual—left there and went with the federal government. And I don't know what's happened with her now.

EP:

Is this Dr. [Willa B.] Player?

WJ:

Player, Dr. Player, a fine individual. One of the nicest people to work with you've ever seen in your life. And she made the address. And I sat in the audience to that address at Bennett College on 1963. And Martin Luther King said he had airplane trouble. And I contacted Atlanta, no trouble had been with airplanes that day. He didn't show up.

Later on, his wife—after he was killed—his wife came here and spoke at A&T. And I was with her during that time, was in the group that watched from when she got off the airplane there at the airport, did the talk down here and stayed right with them. But Martin Luther King, no, there was no trouble much in there. It was just this one thing in there. And this was a hastily put together thing when Martin Luther King was there.

[End of Interview]