NORTH CAROLINA: THOUGHTS ON DURHAM/LACROSSE AND HALIFAX MEMORIES [HUNTER BEAR] MAY 23 2006 -- WITH MY APRIL / MAY / JUNE 2007 UPDATES, AND THOUGHTS ON EVANGELICALS -- AND DIXIE LAWYERS
[David, a committed and lifelong civil libertarian, was one of the first to write approvingly to me following my posts on this sad matter.] H
FROM SAM FRIEDMAN:
NOTE BY HUNTER BEAR: 4/11/07
It is obvious this morning, April 11 2007, that the North Carolina AG will quite shortly drop all remaining charges against the three Duke Lacrosse players -- accused a year ago in a truly awful rape frameup engineered by a thoroughly unscrupulous and politically self-serving district attorney at Durham. Any really objective reader of the situation should have had, very early in the game, profound questions about the whole thing. But all too few folks were even half-way objective -- at least not for a long, long time [when the case eventually began to crumble in spectacular fashion.] True to form, Jesse Jackson rushed immediately to Durham to join the accusations, Al Sharpton added his voice, so did much of the Left and many liberals. With a few exceptions [some of whom wrote approvingly to me after reading my attached post], there was eventually only silence on the liberal/left. The Duke students are White [and from well-to-do families], the accuser was Black and low-income -- and that was enough for a great many people who normally crusade for a full measure of social justice.
The old saw, "Let the System work its course," has never impressed me one damn bit. It's a frequently used cop-out. All too often people are targeted by politically conscious prosecutors with frivolous and/or trumped up charges which are dutifully forwarded through the various court procedures until the thing reaches a final determination months or even years later. And, of course, all too often the defendant eventually and desperately seizes a plea bargain to simply end his/her grindingly torturous existence in "The Legal System."
And, too, the prosecutorial targets are most frequently those of "the fewest alternatives" -- as was Charles Lee Parker, whose case is -- along with that of the Duke kids -- much discussed in my attached post.
Anyone who knows much about North Carolina is well aware that it can be "right tricky." In its old Klan-infested Civil Rights Days, its corollary legal resources were very dangerous and its State Bureau of Investigation [under the AG] was far superior in its spurious mettle than, say, even the old Mississippi State Sovereignty Commission. If you were an effective civil rights or union organizer, solid legal "six gun" lawyers were imperative.
I can recall when then N.C. Attorney General Ralph Moody threatened via letter and speech to charge me with "practicing law without a license." I responded with a coldly hostile letter which I copied to a number of attorneys, including Bill Kunstler and Arthur Kinoy. General Moody retreated. In another situation, in which Governor Terry Sanford brought in "hanging judge" Raymond Mallard of Tabor City to preside over the mass demonstration trials which grew out of the Chapel Hill struggle, we had a truly whirlwind series of kaleidoscopic experiences. Judge Mallard had gained national notoriety in the late '50s when, on frameup charges, he imprisoned many Textile Union [TWUA] leaders for what he hoped were long terms. This was the famous Boyd Payton case and, despite some serious incarceration, Brother Payton et al. were eventually freed via heavy support from the national American and Canadian labor movements and civil libertarians in general. In the Chapel Hill trials spectacle, Judge Mallard -- in a fashion reminiscent of certain high school teachers of mine -- told me in court, "Young man. I know who you are. When you come in tomorrow morning, I'm citing and jailing you for contempt." I had no intention of even pretending to apologize to him. Back home, "at the end of the day," I contacted my lawyers and, next morning, kissed Eldri and Maria, and packed a bag with jail things. Back in court, he again called me up and, not meeting my steady stare, said he'd decided Not to cite me. We always assumed my home/office phone was tapped but, in any case, Mallard had gotten the word. In the end, though it took awhile -- and the fine efforts of a number of our good lawyers -- everyone was turned loose.
I and others can cite many such North Carolina accounts. And obviously, the tragic Duke/Durham situation indicates with super sad clarity that this sort of thing still continues [as it does in much of what's called the United States.]
We Of the Left -- and many liberals as well -- are obviously committed to social justice, often in the systemic as well as the individual senses. We advocate and many of us attempt To Do grassroots community organization. We are opposed to militarism and capitalism and much more -- and most of us of the left support some version of socialism.
But let's sure as hell, if we don't want our own throats eventually cut, not -- not -- get relativistic when it comes to Anyone's civil liberties.
In Solidarity, Hunter Gray [Hunter Bear]
THOUGHTS ON DURHAM/LACROSSE AND HALIFAX MEMORIES [HUNTER GRAY 5/23/06]
Life here in Eastern Idaho continues -- with the Earth
and the Mountains and
most of the people surviving as usual.
We much appreciate the various List reports [Redbadbear] from the "points of
production" -- e.g., via Macdonald Stainsby on the Six Nations struggle in
Ontario and Edward Pickersgill's posted update on the lethal effect of
industrial pollution and other factors among the Natives [principally
Athabascan and Inuit] at Fort Chipewyan and environs. [At many points in
past years I have been involved with the hideous effects of uranium mining,
milling and refining among the Navajo and Laguna.]
And there are some other things we follow:
I have been in my full share of Southern jails and courtrooms -- and that
includes, among other places, several fascinating and sometimes threatening
North Carolina situations. From virtually its beginning, I have seen the
Duke LaCrosse case as a probable frameup -- with a rather crude [albeit Phi
Beta Kappa in his undergrad era] D.A. cynically arranging chess pieces in
his version of race and social class in this latest New South incarnational
scenario. This successfully but narrowly effected his re-election against a
sharp female candidate and a quite capable Black contender. Duke's
administration functioned in the cowardly fashion typical of much of
academia -- ending the team's season and suspending the first two indictees.
[The third kid formally enmeshed was at least able to graduate.] The case,
obviously questionable from its outset, has crumbled virtually to the crash
point in the Inner Gorge -- with much conservative trumpeting and
conspicuous liberal silence. The title of Dreiser's most famous novel would
at least broadly apply to the accused and accuser[s] alike. While the D.A.
now attempts to prevent any semblance of a trial fair and speedy -- I
suspect the power structure of Durham, White and Black alike, would like to
quietly kill the whole tragic spectacle.
My memories of North Carolina are many -- and some are on our huge
Hunterbear website in several sections. One of which I have not yet written
until now centers on a hot spring 1964 morn in rigidly segregated, Klan
infested Halifax County -- centerpiece of the resistance to the 20th century
in the far flung multi-county Northeastern North Carolina Black Belt. [We
eventually cracked open that entire region in a long, tough struggle whose
many successes can be attributed to a vast and growing throng of Black --
and many Indian -- people.] On that hot morning at Halifax, a U.S. Marshal
was delivering a sweeping voting rights order -- just won by us with private
attorneys in a Federal court at Raleigh and focused on the George
Wallace-oriented Halifax County Elections chair and his army of precinct
registrars. Resistance to our mass voter registration drive had been
virtually intractable, featuring endless and tedious questions for
prospective Black and Indian voter registrants, hostile White groups, some
violence, and numerous economic reprisals. The headquarters of our Movement
was in Enfield where a voter registrar had threatened to shoot Blacks. When
the U.S. Marshal served the Voting Order at the Enfield precinct, I was
personally on hand. The registrar made a number of scurrilous remarks about
the Order. I then courteously pointed out that it was, of course, a Federal
Order. I was immediately arrested by the entire local [White] police force
on charges of "interfering with a registrar" and taken deep into the local
police station, a primitive [a word I don't use lightly] cop shop that made
the depiction in the "Heat of the Night" look Real Contemporary. [I should
add that "In the Heat," a truly great film centered in a small Mississippi
town, is well based on the book by the same name where the geographical
locale was actually in North Carolina.]
I was taken past the large sign therein with its hooded horse-riding figure
which proclaimed, "Be A Man, Join The Klan/United Klans of America!" --
aware that local KKK dues were collected in that awful little bailiwick --
and into a dismal back room. There I sat, surrounded by the several police
including the chief. No one spoke while I impassively took out a Pall Mall
and lighted it. Minutes passed; They were waiting.
And then through the door came the key figure in the economic power
structure in the southern plantation part of the county. [The northern part
of Halifax was dominated by the infamous J.P. Stevens Textile Mill at
Roanoke Rapids, about which the fine union labor film, Norma Rae, was made
years later.] Joseph Branch was a tall older man, a lawyer, dressed in a jet black
suit with formal tie -- a public segregationist, of course, but not a
Klansman. He was carrying a copy of our massive Federal voting rights
injunction and sat down across from me and the police chief, nodding in a
courteous fashion in my direction.
He leafed through the injunction. And then he said very slowly, emphasizing
the syllables, "This is an interlocutory injunction." [I knew the basic
meaning of that: a temporary order which, at that point, could not be
appealed.] He didn't explain to the police who knew as much about that as
they did the far off mysteries of Carlsbad Caverns. But, as he looked at
each one of them, his drift was clear, explicit. The Power Structure was
The police chief looked at me. "You can go now," he said, his blue cap
bobbing rather desperately. As I left in deliberate fashion, I nodded
politely to Joseph Branch. Outside, across the street, as many as a hundred
people -- Blacks and some Indians -- greeted me quietly and
enthusiastically. The Order, with only slight changes, was subsequently
made permanent even as Robert Kennedy belatedly sent a team of FBI agents
into Halifax to ensure enforcement of the Order [one of the few positive
"FBI moments" that we ever saw.] Shortly thereafter, when one of our key
Movement leaders, Willa Cofield Johnson, was summarily fired by the [White]
school board for her civil rights activities, we sued in Federal court --
and the case became Willa Johnson v Joseph Branch et al. [since he was the
board's attorney.] We lost at the District level, won overwhelmingly at the
Fourth Circuit [Richmond], and won again when -- despite supportive filings
on behalf of N.C. by every Southern AG -- the USSC denied cert. The
widespread positive implications of this Black teacher victory were
considerable. By that time, we had cracked the basic Black Belt and were
well into the 20th Century, Willa was planning to go to Rutgers where she
subsequently got her PhD in Urban Planning, and Joseph Branch became a N.C.
State Supreme Court justice.
Far more common than the Durham situation and its well-placed and
well-financed defendants is the Other Pattern. Again, in Halifax County,
during our intensive 'Rights campaign, we learned of a 15 year old Black
youth, Charles, who, with virtually no publicity had been convicted and
sentenced to life for the capital offense of First Degree Burglary at
Roanoke Rapids. His White attorney had pleaded him guilty, claiming this was
necessary to avoid the death sentence. We learned of this only after the
fact since his relations were not involved in the civil rights campaigns.
As he went off to the grim state prison, we gathered facts -- learning that
he had been enticed into the home of a White woman whose husband was
supposed to have been away. And then the husband appeared and the woman
charged that the kid had forcibly entered via a window.
We slowly assembled a fine legal team for Charles -- stretching from New
York City down. Getting him transferred out of Central Prison, he wound up
in a state prison camp surrounded by forests and swamp in the eastern part
of Northampton County [adjoins Halifax] in which our spreading Movement
drums were now beating ever louder. There I traveled and met him -- he was
just 16 -- in a setting out of Cool Hand Luke: two tiers of heavy fencing,
horse-riding armed guards, huge dogs tied to the surrounding trees, lots of
guard guns. We had wrangled a letter for me from Lee Bounds, the new state
prison director, and, after that Holy Writ was inspected by several
worthies, I was grudgingly led in to meet with Charles. He was sharp,
earnest -- and I in turn gave him every verbal support I could, presented
him with a variety of documents which he signed painstakingly, and told him
we'd get him out. As I left, the Guard Captain, out of earshot of anyone
other than me, said very quietly, "He really is a good kid." We got Charles
into a low security youth facility -- and then eventually, now with law
profs from University of North Carolina on board, got him out -- not quite
exonerated, but free for a long life ahead.
So now, when I see Durham, I think of Charles.
UPDATE NOTES [JUNE 16 2007] HUNTER
Eldri and I have just finished watching the initial and basic phase of the Mike Nifong trial before the select committee of the North Carolina Bar Association. We, of course, spent six years in the South -- from 1961 well into 1967 -- and went through many of its significant crucibles. We learned much which we have always faithfully retained and, since we grew early on to like and appreciate that always fascinating and still mysterious section, we have always felt a very special bond with the lands and the people of Dixie. On this day, we are especially proud of one of our former settings, North Carolina, which is also the birthplace of our oldest son.
In May, 2006, I began a website page on the hideous injustice levied on the three Duke lacrosse players. It's steadily visited and its opening paragraph gives, from the perspective of our first hand "sociological" experience, my assessment:
Mike Nifong has now been formally disbarred. Whatever the specific further actions ultimately levied upon him, he is obviously professionally finished.
As the years progressed following our Southern experiences, we were able to -- in a fair number of cases -- extend a kind of "forgiveness" to some of our old adversaries. A few of them openly sought that dispensation and we obliged. In other instances, we just did it -- sometimes openly and explicitly and sometimes simply and quietly within ourselves. [These are genuinely fascinating human stories.] I should add that I have never been able to "forgive" conscious treachery. An old Movement acquaintance [and, in that general activist context, honorable enough] from the Tougaloo College days, himself a white Mississippian, had -- very, very early on in our association -- triggered considerable caution in Eldri's mind and mine and thus we were always very chary of revealing much of ourselves to him in the many years that ensued. Decades later, we learned he had done his best to knife us surreptitiously on a good number of occasions over much time indeed. We ended our association with him completely. He telephoned finally -- by then we were here in Idaho -- and "apologized.
Nifong "apologized" to the three Duke students and their families. The quality of his message sounded most dubious but they, of course, will have to make their own decisions. They obviously have handled things well in that context.
Hunter Gray [Hunter Bear]
SOME ADDITIONAL REFLECTIONS ON DUKE /
LACROSSE AND DIXIE LAWYERS: [HUNTER GRAY JUNE 27 2007]
AND ONE MORE DIXIE POST FROM REDBADBEAR
[HUNTER GRAY JUNE 28 2007]
Thanks, Reber. Takes a real Southerner [of whatever ethnicity], to tell a
good story in fascinating fashion -- often moving well beyond the
geo-cultural bounds of that section. Much true indeed of its lawyers. Dixon
Pyles and I could visit at great length, swapping accounts and opinion at
his office on Pearl Street [Jackson.] He was fascinated by Jenghiz Khan --
of whose career and tactics I know a little. In 1988, Dixon bought a new
black Cadillac which he liked so well that he soon bought a second. [I know
the feeling -- sometimes do the same thing with mountain boots.] He took
Beba and myself in one of them for an extended tour of Jackson at around
Tom Watkins died [there was at least another lawyer Watkins] and it's quite
possible that his firm went into the now very large one [several dozen
lawyers, which contains in its primary firm name, that of Stennis.] That is
the one that includes Bill Winter. Bill Winter, I should add, for the
benefit of others on the list, was Mississippi State Tax Collector [can't
recall the precise title] in the Old Bad Days and the only state official
who had flatly refused to join the [White] Citizens' Council. He became
Governor in '80 and served well for four years and remains active in good
In the fall of '62, Bill Kunstler came to Tougaloo [accompanied by Pete
Seeger]. Bill's daughter, Karin, now herself a lawyer, had enrolled at
Tougaloo and was taking my course in Political Theory. The school, of
course, was under heavy fire from the State and its various legions. Dr
A.D. Beittel, its courageous president, asked Bill and myself to quietly
make a trip into nearby Jackson to the Hinds County DA's castle to see what
could be done in the case of a faculty member -- a Black lady of late middle
age who was somewhat less than stable at that point in her productive life
and who had gone on a shop-lifting spree in one of Jackson's White-owned
stores. She was in jail. It would be understatement to say that the
situation was, well, delicate.
We went to the DA and were taken courteously into the office of a member of
the Alexander family [from Greenville.] He closed the door, offered drinks
[which I recall Bill accepted] and immediately launched an admiring river of
words about Bill's latest book, "The Minister and the Choir Girl" -- a
murder and trial account. Somewhere in this, we took the conversation back
to our primary matter, the case of Dr. Y., camped in the not-far county
jail. "No problem," said our host. "Her being a doctor and all. We'll see
that she gets a day of standard evaluation right away at Whitfield [the
State Hospital] and she'll be back in her classroom in two days." [The
conversation then returned to the business of writing books.] He was as good
as his word. Meanwhile, Pete Seeger gave a lively pro bono concert at the
I was always genuinely touched by the concern of former Governor Ross
Barnett [described once by a Kennedy man as "the living symbol of
lawlessness"] who, on two or three occasions long after the War, conveyed
via Erle Johnston [among other things, his former campaign manager and, for
a time, head of the State Sovereignty Commission], his [Barnett's] concern
for "Professor Salter, away up there in that awful cold weather and snow in
North Dakota." When Erle, later in his life, became mayor of Forest in
Scott County, and six inches of snow fell, he called me, still up in N.D.,
seeking my advice. "Just let it melt," I said, "that's the Navajo Way." He
took my advice.
The discussion on lacrosse sticks fascinates me. For several reasons, I
should know more about it than I do.
Anyway, all of this shows that, hang around Redbadbear, and you'll get a
better liberal arts education than you could in a "proper" setting.
Thank to All. Send us in Idaho some rain.
THE CONTEMPORARY NORTH CAROLINA: [HUNTER GRAY MAY 6 2007] FROM BEAR WITHOUT BORDERS
ADDITIONAL NOTES: 5/6/07
FROM REBER BOULT:
I doubt that there's much difference from one military
base to another in the effect of evangelicals. Ft. Carson might
be an exception--it seems to be the meanest and ugliest of the
bases, it's there in Haggard heaven, Colorado Springs, and it's
also in the same town as the Air Force Academy which seems to be
in the grip of bigoted fundamentalists. See, e.g.,
Mikey Weinstein has done yeoman service in exposing and trying to combat what's going on at the Air Force Academy (appropriately, same acronym as the right wing fundamentalist homophobic American Family Association). He's participated in the writing of a long article (maybe from a book) on the military chaplaincy and fundamentalists; it's "Birth of the Christian Soldier: How Evangelicals Infiltrated the American Military,"
My sketchy present day observations also tell me that the Protestant Christian fundamentalist God is a much-used recruiting tool. After all, Christianity seems to me to be the most warlike of the major religions, even more so over the course of its history than Islam. Remember the Christian General who said something like "My God is tougher than your god." Onward Christian Soldiers, marching as to war.
- Reber Boult
MORE FROM HUNTER: VIOLENCE, WAR, EVANGELICALS [5/09/07]:
I often agree, Ed, with Larry Sakin -- and with genuine due respect -- but I do have something of a bone to pick on this one.
[This piece published in My Town by Ed Pickersgill, May 9, 2007.]
I am in total agreement with you on this Hunter. It
is my experience too.
Also, though I am not sure about it, John Brown may have been an evangelical
or something close. And he is one of the white Americans I most admire from
his day, even though he sure had his flaws. (If you are interested, see the
I too was raised in the sphere of the church, Catholic and this was long
before I heard the word socialism at age 14. I have a deep seated belief in
Social Justice, Social Gospel, Liberation Theology, and Christian Socialism
et al. I think after three years within the SP that there was this element
missing from our common cause and the change in the platform moved me even
further to the Right in the Leftist sense, but not to the Democratic Party
or the twisted Republican Party..
HUNTER GRAY [HUNTER BEAR/JOHN R SALTER JR] Mi'kmaq /St. Francis
Abenaki/St. Regis Mohawk
Protected by Na´shdo´i´ba´i´
Honored with The Elder Recognition Award by Wordcraft Circle of Native
Writers and Storytellers:
In our Gray Hole, the ghosts often dance in the junipers and sage, on the
game trails, in the tributary canyons with the thick red maples, and on the
high windy ridges -- and they dance from within the very essence of our own
inner being. They do this especially when the bright night moon shines down
on the clean white snow that covers the valley and its surroundings. Then
it is as bright as day -- but in an always soft and mysterious and
remembering way. [Hunter Bear]