Sara Criss’ Civil Rights Memoir #15: Voices of Reason

Mayor Charles Sampson, Fire Chief Evans and Police Chief Curtis Lary as photographed by Sara for the Commercial Appeal

“Chief of Police Curtis Lary and his assistant Miller Wyatt were credited with containing the situation and keeping things from getting completely out of hand. Curtis was a frail, quiet man with a gentle nature, and he never let his temper get out of control. He would stand in front of the marchers with his bullhorn and very quietly demand respect. Then if he saw a crowd of whites gathered on the corner he would let them know he did not want any trouble.

“Buff Hammond, the police commissioner, too kept a clear head and often would just laugh when he was thrown insults. A number of local men were on the Auxiliary Police Force and wore hard hats and assisted the police. An old school bus had been painted black and was used to take those arrested to jail.

“Gray [Evans] was city prosecuting attorney during these days and was involved in setting bond and prosecuting those arrested. We kept hearing that his and Tricia’s phone might be bugged, and this kept Mama upset. Gray would be on the phone talking to John Doar, Justice Department attorney, and others in Washington. I am sure Mama would have preferred that neither Gray nor I be involved in all that was going on.

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About sec040121

Hello....I'm in possession of a priceless collection of memoirs and memorabilia left by my mother, Sara Evans Criss. She was a native and lifelong (88 years!) devotee of our small town, who covered this peculiar and volatile corner of the world for 30 years as the Memphis Commercial Appeal's Greenwood bureau chief, a job that started out with debutantes and high school football and wound up spang in the midst of one of the twentieth century's most enduring social upheavals. This blog is dedicated to her memory and the legacy she left behind, both for her family and her community.
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3 Responses to Sara Criss’ Civil Rights Memoir #15: Voices of Reason

  1. jemiller25 says:

    I wonder if Fire Chief Evans, being a Greenwood Evans unrelated (I assume) to our clan, was kin to the inebriated fella who once took a snooze on the Stott house porch…

  2. sec040121 says:

    Might be. There couldn’t be many Evanses left in Wales. They’re all here.

  3. jemiller25 says:

    Howard Street is preferable to coal mines.

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