Jack Chatfield
(1942 — 2014)


As remembered by Penny Patch
September 29, 2014

Jack Chatfield was part of SNCC and Charles Sherrod's Southwest Georgia Project, arriving in Albany to work in September of 1962. He stayed for about a year, working primarily in the rural counties of Terrell and Lee. Jack was shot his first day on the job as he gathered with other SNCC organizers in the home of Mrs Carolyn Daniels in Dawson (Terrell County), Georgia. Mrs Daniels was one of the countless courageous local Movement leaders who sheltered SNCC workers in their home. Shots came through the window of her home 1/2 hour after Jack and others had arrived. As he describes it, they were all milling around the kitchen when suddenly he heard three loud blasts.

"For a moment I could not get my bearings and imagined someone had tossed cherry bombs into our midst. But at the moment of the explosion a concussive force struck my upper arm. It felt like I had been hit by a hot, heavy, flying object, like an iron frying pan drawn from the fire and wielded like a broadsword or a club. Silence followed, then darkness: had someone switched off the bright kitchen light? We pressed ourselves against the floorboards of the tiny house. Sherrod was the first to speak, or was it Prathia Hall? We took stock: Prathia had been grazed and was bleeding slightly; Christopher Allen, a visiting British student, had been hit in the finger; I had taken two pellets full in the arm. It was clear that I needed a doctor's care, but we all agreed that we ought to wait awhile before venturing out into the night. After a few minutes, Sherrod crawaled to the telephone. Without hesitation, he dialed the Atlanta home of [New York Times reporter] Claude Sitton. It was close to midnight. Sitton answered the phone immediately and took down the story that Sherrod told him. Sherrod phoned a second time after three of us had returned from the Dawson hospital, where I was treated by a hostile but thoroughly professional doctor. By this time, Sherrod had reached the Atlanta office of the FBI. Federal agents arrived the next day, and Sitton's dispatch appeared on the front page of the New York Times on September 6th." Jack stayed on to work in Terrell County through the next year.

In 1988 Jack, in his capacity as professor of American history at Trinity College in Hartford, CT, convened a conference on the Civil Rights Movement. The conference turned into a remarkable, thoughtful gathering of SNCC people. We remembered our past, mourned our losses, celebrated our survival, and I for one moved forward with renewed strength. Cheryl Lynn Greenberg edited a book commemorating the Trinity Civil Rights Conference called A Circle of Trust: Remembering SNCC. (1998). Rutgers University Press.

Penny Patch

© Copyright
Webspinner: webmaster@crmvet.org
(Labor donated)