Sara Criss’ Civil Rights Memoir #37: Threats

“De La continued to fight integration and to show up whenever there were any racial troubles. He later became more obsessed with Jews than Negroes and was always telling me that I was working for a ‘Jew newspaper’ and that the editor, Frank Ahlgren, was a Kazar Jew and that if he decided to get rid of him he could punch buttons all over the state and have it done. He approached me one day in the Crystal Grill with all this talk, and I tried to tell him that Ahlgren was a Presbyterian and not a Jew, but that didn’t calm him down. He wrote me an eight-page letter from Florida, ranting and raving over the Commercial Appeal and said if they ever printed a picture of him which they had previously run when he was in jail, he would take action.

“I was frantic thinking he really might try to kill Mr. Ahlgren and that I would feel terrible that I had not told anyone of his threats. Still I was afraid if I sent the letter to the editor something might come out in the paper, and then De La would take care of me. So I called Bill Street, the assistant tri-state editor and my good friend, and told him I was sending him the letter and that he was not to print any of if, but that I felt they should know about the threats and hopefully not use the picture, which I am sure they probably still had in the ‘morgue’ where they kept prominent folks’ pictures.

“Later when Bill died in his office of a heart attack my first thought was that when they went through his files someone might get hold of De La’s letter.”

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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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