Sara Criss’ Civil Rights Memoir #42

“On April 9 there were 17 pickets, including five white ministers, arrested in front of the Court House. After they had picketed for 30 minutes, Chief Lary told them they would be restricted to ten and must be of voting age and a resident of Leflore County. The ministers were the first to refuse. Each picket was given a choice before being arrested and charged with unlawful picketing and refusing to obey police orders. Governor Paul Johnson had signed a new state law the night before prohibiting picketing of public buildings.

“At one time the number of pickets reached 24, including five children who appeared to be under age 15. Gray Evans, acting for Youth Counselor Charles Deaton, sent them back to school.

“Accompanying the pickets and advising them were two attorneys, one of whom was Jack Pratt of New York, attorney for the National Council of Churches, who told Lary he was violating their Constitutional rights. The ministers were from Warren, Ohio, Pittsburgh, Chicago and Indianapolis. The charges against them were dropped the next day. After they were arrested, they were jailed at the City Hall and Carol Franklin, a reporter for the Commonwealth, and I went down there to try to talk to them. As we were talking, the mayor [Charles Sampson] walked over and told us not to talk to ‘those God damn preacher.’ I told him later that he had played right into their hands, I was sure, and that they would go back to their churches on Sunday morning and tell their congregations it was just like they had been told down here. I just got a dirty look from the mayor.

“Buff Hammond, the police commissioner, did talk to them and later received a letter from one saying he was sorry and that they had been misled about the situation. Reverend Eade Anderson of the First Presbyterian Church also talked to some of them. Once more I thought a little dialogue might have helped, but there was no way to get the mayor to listen to anyone except Hardy [Lott].

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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 #42

  1. Bart Liles says:

    Mary Carol,

    Do you know if Gray has written anything in the way of memoirs?

  2. Bart Liles says:

    By the way, I was negligent in my reading for 1.5 months due to work constraints. I have finally caught back up, and I want to thank you for the wonderful post on my grandparents. I miss Papa Bart (Howard to y’all) and Mamie often. Mom and I got a kick out of yours and Criss’ hatred for two things in life: the Yankees and LSU. I’ll be polite in my response since my boys got stung so badly last week! Please keep the posts coming. I know you said it would be too hard on you, but we need to hear more about Criss someday. I was too young and too far away to fully appreciate my uncle.

    • sec040121 says:

      Bart,
      I just can’t imagine that you have “work constraints.” (Ha.) My goodness, I’m amazed that you even have time to think outside the hospital, much less read these blogs. I’m so glad you liked the “Mamie and Howard” one, and I hope it gave some insight into those wonderful, sweet people for readers who never knew them. They just live in my memory like two beacons of laughter and kindness, who lit up our world every time they blew in from faraway Ohio. We were so lucky to have them for a little while. As far as memories of my father, that will come, but they will be so different from Sara’s. All I have of his writing are his letters from the Army, so it will be much harder to convey his voice. He’s lurking in the background of every one of these Civil Rights blogs, quietly watching out for Sara’s safety during trying times. His day will come. As for Gray, I have a video camera ready to begin recording his memories (and Tricia’s too, I hope) as soon as I can work out a timeframe for that. It’s just amazing to me how interwoven our family was in all that happened in Greenwood in the 1960s.

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