A Special Report on the Jonesboro, Louisiana
With Reference to Voter Registration Activities
involving the Congress of Racial Equality
Daniel Mitchell, CORE Task Force Worker
July, 1964

This Traditional and fully segregated mill town of about 4,000 persons has, in recent weeks, been perturbed by the realization that its Negroes are not happy and satisfied. Moreover, local whites have been particularly concerned about the presence of white members of our team living and working in the Negro community.

Obivously preceiving a threat to the validity of long established modes of conduct and the all important Southern way of life, the reponse of the white citizenry, both public and private has ranged from passive denials to overt threats and intimidation. It is with the latter of these (threats and intimidation) reactions that we shall herein deal.

On June 22, 1964, Fred Brooks, a CORE Task Force Worker was on duty in the Jackson Parish Courthouse located in Jonesboro, Louisiana assisting Negro voter registration applicants when he drank water from a water fountain located in the lobby located in said building labeled "WHITE." What follows is an account of what transpired as result of his action. Near 10:30 A. M. Brooks took his first drink from the "WHITE" fountain causing no incident. Upon his second attempt to consume water from said source Brooks was confronted by Jackson Parish Deputy Sheriff:, W. D. NoBride, who said: "Show me some identification." This Brooks did. Brooks was then asked what his business was in the courthouse. He reponded that he was working on a voter registration project. As he left the sheriff's office the deputy stated: "Don't you drink out of that "WHITE" water fountain no more (emphasis mine)." After talking with the potential Negro voter applicants, Brooks again drank from the "WHITE" fountain whereupon a deputy sheriff ordered Brooks back into his office as well as F. D. Kirkpatrick, coach at Jackson High School (Negro) and now city policeman. In the sheriff's office, Jackson Parish Sheriff, Newte Lowe said to Mr. Kirkpatrick: "You'd better tell this boy something about drinking drinking from these white water fountains. I'm not gonna have this." "I'm gonna peel his darm head."

On July 4, 1964 CORE Task Force Worker, Robert Weaver (white) was enroute to the CORE "FREEDOM HOUSE" in Jonesboro along with Charles Pressley (Negro) of Monroe, and Herman Williams of Jonesboro, also Negro when they were stopped by a Jackson Parish Deputy Sheriff (The deputy was about 6 ft. tall 180lbs., dark brown hair) who asked Pressley, the driver for his drivers license and Weaver and Wiliams for identification. Noting that Weaver was from Ohio, the deputy asked him wether he was wanted for any crime in Ohio. After which he ordered Weaver to get into his car and told the others to follow him to the Sheriff's office, the officer told Weaver thet he was not wanted in Jackson Parish either by the Negroes and whites and that it was very dangerous for him to remain. Further the officer said that registration was open to Negroes and they (Negroes) did not need him, since he could only cause trouble.

Upon their arrival at the Sheriff's office the deputy told a white in the outer office that Weaver was "one of those Northern civil rights workers down here to stir up trouble (this man was short, partly bold, somewhat heavy, about 5'6" and about 55 years old).

The deputy and Sheriff Lowe undertook an interrogation on Weaver and when asked by Weaver wether in fact he was under arrest, the deputy replied the he was. At this point, Weaver requested to make a phone call. To this, the deputy said "no", stating that a call was a privilege for "ordinary prisioners" and that Weaver was "lower than scum." He was then finger-printed.

At one point in the conversation, Sheriff Lowe jumped up from his seat and threatened to phisically assault Weaver upon Weaver's suggestion that he may have hindered Negroes From registering to vote. Further the deputy thretened to bust his head if he saw his face again, says Weaver. The Sheriff also said that for his own good, Weaver should be out of town by morning.

On the night of July 8, 1964, Ronnie Moore, Director of CORE's Louisiana Voter Registration Project, and Mike Lesser (white), Field Worker for the same organization were enroute to Monroe, Louisiana driving via U.S. Highway 167 North, from Jonesboro to Ruston when the following events took place.

Leaving the town of Hodge located two miles north of Jonesboro, they noted that they were being followed. As they proceded North they were boxed in by three cars (one car driving slowly infront of them, another at their rear and still another on their side). Luckly they were able to manipulate their auto in such a way as to race South to Jonesboro, however, not without the car- loads of whites in hot pursuit.

As they ran from their car and into the "FREEDOM HOUSE" (Core Voter Regitration Headquarters), three cars, traveling at high speeds, passed by the headquarters with their occupants shrieking vile language. This they did for at least three times.

When the initial impact of the incident had passed (i.e., when they ceased to drive by), Fred Brooks attempeted to call the police department and was cut- off by the party answering his call to the department. Afterwards, Cathy Patterson and I went accross the street and called the chief of police at his home. Shortly thereafter an officer from the city, and one from the county arrived to investigate. About fifteen minutes later the chief of police arrived and indicated that Moore was to be arrested for having driven weaklessly and having left the scene of the accident. He immediately dropped this idea since he had no warrant for said party's arrest. The police chief also seemed particularly pertubed that Moore had called the F.B.I. about the incident.

The next day, Ronnie Moore was arrested in Monroe on charges forementioned pursuant to a warrant having been signed by one James O. Smith. He was later transferred to the Jackson Parish jail and finally released under a $750.00 bond.

Also on the evening of July 8, 1964, Mr. and Mrs. James Holden (Note: it is of tremendous import that these persons names not be used for fear of possible reprisals against them) came to the "FREEDOM HOUSE" and first spoke to Fred Brooks and later Brooks, Patterson, Weaver, and Yates in concert about the following. Shortly before their coming to our headquarters, the chief of the Jonesboro Police Force, Peevy, had confronted Mr. James in an effort to get him and others to "beat those white fellows to the point of death" and thus make them leave town. The rationale given for the need for such an act according to Peevy was that he had received numerous complaints from Negro residents about the presence of whites in their community and thus they should be made to leave. The Holden's refused to become involved in such an action with Mrs. Holden retorting to Peevy that if he wanted it done that he should do it himself.

On the morning of July 11, 1964, four of the Jonesboro task force workers along with one local helper (Task Force - Patterson, Brooks, Yates and Weaver, and Doris Davis, local youth) were apprehended by jackson and Lincoln Parish officials in concert with a Louisiana State Policeman. They were made to line- up as have their pictures, taken by a deputy sheriff of Jackson Parish. On numerous accasions they were threatened with physical violence, harassed, and one worker, Cathy Patterson was stroke by the car of Jackson Parish Deputy Sheriff James Van Beasley who stated: "...I want to hit her."

The car in which the voter registration workers were riding was impounded for an alleged investigation involving a robbery that was supposed to have taken place the night before. Further, there was a question as to the validity of the registration papers on the car which is registered in Ronnie Moore's name but driven by workers under his direction. When Moore came to Jonesboro week after the car had been impounded, the Sheriff produced a warrant issued by justice of the peace Haywood C. Qualles to have the car searched. The warrant specified nothing in particular to be searched for.

By now, it is common that in the course of a day a dozen or so cars and trucks should pass our "FREEDOM HOUSE" with their white occupants closely scrutinizing our workers and headquarters.

On July 13, 1964, Robert Weaver and I, along with several local youth were standing in the yard infront of the "freedom House" when a black ...

{Remainder of report illegible.}

Copyright © DAniel Mitchell, 1964


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