I worked in the COFO office at 1017 Lynch St. in Jackson during the Freedom Summer; spent a few weeks that fall working in the Pine Bluff, Ark., SNCC office; and then worked with Movement attorney Bill Higgs in Washington, D.C., a short time before returning to college at Berkeley in 1965.
In Jackson I worked mostly as organizer of a Young Democrats group of black youth from around the state that was intended to be an alternative to the all-white, entrenched Young Democrats organization in Mississippi. I still remember those wonderful, bright, energetic kids (Thelma Eubanks, for one, and Roy ?) and wish I'd kept in touch with them over the years. We traveled to the Democratic Convention in Atlantic City that summer and, mirroring what the MFDP did, challenged the validity of the entrenched Young Democrats delegates from Mississippi.
I also recall working the night shift in the COFO office, answering the phone (which would sometimes ring with news of a bombing or beating) and keeping a log of significant information (I hope those diaries are archived somewhere).
I lived in a barely furnished house nearby, occupied by COFO workers. I remember many meals at the Chicken Shack, a few downtown in a fancier place, and fresh donuts from the bakery next door. My supervisor was Jesse Morris, whom I found intimidatingly solemn but fair, and an anchor of dependability in a very busy office. I wonder where he is today, and I hope he's content.
I also worked a little with Mary King and once with Julian Bond, dealing with the news media. Other people I remember are Michael Thelwell, Casey Hayden, Barney Frank, Connie McDougald, Dodie Datz, Richard Beymer, Fannie Lou Hamer, and, of course, Bob Moses.
I dropped out of Berkeley for a semester to keep working in the South. When things slowed down at the COFO office, I went to Pine Bluff, Ark., and worked/lived with Bill Hansen and Jim Jones. I remember driving past the cotton fields of the Delta country more vividly, I admit, than what I accomplished there, but Bill and Jim were good people.
It was an important chapter of my life, a proud moment and a precious memory.
Copyright © Tom Harris, 2001
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