HUNTER GRAY [HUNTER BEAR] AT
BLAIR STREET AME CHURCH, NIGHT OF JUNE 13 1963
SEE ALSO, OUTLAW TRAIL:
THE NATIVE AS ORGANIZER:
For a good feel for some of the civil
liberties challenges faced by an effective organizer, see this cluster of four
related pages: http://hunterbear.org/a_bizarre__1979_fbi_smear_effort.htm
FORCES AND FACES ALONG THE ACTIVIST TRAIL [HUNTER GRAY
/ HUNTER BEAR -- JANUARY 25 2008 -- WITH COMMENTS AND ADDITIONS -- AND, A
FORMATIVE EXPERIENCE WITH A MISSISSIPPI TWIST [HUNTER GRAY / HUNTER BEAR
MAY 15 2008]
No, this is not a sermon -- I am not an especially
churchy person. And it isn't a grab-bag of butterfly homilies.
A couple of nights ago, around midnight, I was
awakened by a very sharp jabbing pain on the right side of my face --
particularly focused in my sinus area and transmitted into my right eye
region. I arose and, looking into a mirror, noted my face was swollen on
the affected side and that eye was almost closed. This was probably, I
assumed, just one more afterword from the rigged auto wreck at Jackson in
June 1963 where my car was totalled and a friend and I almost died. So I
didn't rush off to an Emergency Room. The severity of this contemporary
episode -- and I do have a high pain threshold -- was obviously complicated
and furthered by the ever-present and pervasive systemic lupus. I felt that
it would pass in due course as lesser versions of the same thing always do
and, after hours had elapsed, it finally receded. In the interim, unable
to do computer work or even watch television, I sat in my armchair and drank
black coffee and cold water.
It wasn't a pleasantly lonely campfire on the rim of
Sycamore Canyon -- but it was certainly a situation conducive to thought.
And so I thought.
And given the dramatic origin of my facial situation,
it's only natural that I would spend some time on Old Days in Dixie and
environs. I've organized in many settings across what's called the United
States. All of it has been tough and challenging as hell -- but there is
always something about the South, where dichotomies are sharply drawn [often
lethally so], even into these contemporary times.
I began thinking about the present mainline
Presidential campaign -- and the not surprising invective, both aggressive
and defensive, that it's produced. Some folks around the country have been
fretting about this -- and, quickly, I say I am not in the Bill and Hillary
camp -- but these current and creative knives and darts are hardly in the
same league as, say, Deep South invective as I well recall it.
The most absolutely poisonous daily papers I have
ever known -- worse, even, than the old Phoenix-based Arizona Republic --
were the Jackson Daily News and its companion Clarion-Ledger [long since
merged, "responsible," and under several new managers.] In the old, old
days, before I got to the Magnolia State in '61, the editor of the JDN was
Colonel Frederick Sullens, a gifted creator of invective who often gave the
initials of his targets in small-case. One of his jewels, quoted in Erle
Johnston's, Mississippi Politics :
"We have not assassinated the character of the most
dangerous demagogue who ever afflicted a long-suffering commonwealth because
he has no character to assassinate. You cannot assassinate a thing that is
non-existent. Our assailant in this instance has no more character than a
snake has hips. If jpbj had accidentally bitten or scratched himself during
that tirade against the editor, he would have perished on the spot with
hydrophobia. The ninety members of the medical profession in Jackson could
not have saved him from a violent death."
[I should add that during a surprisingly cordial
dinner at a local hotel in Nebraska, the veteran [and extremely
sharp-tongued] newspaper editor, who was also the president of the State
Press Association, and with whom I'd been feuding, told me, somewhat
admiringly, that "I have never -- never -- met
anyone who is as absolutely wicked and devastating with words as you."
Several years later, following our much publicized Woolworth sit-in at
Jackson, he wrote a very complimentary editorial about me.]
Colonel Sullens' successor, who graced my era and
long thereafter, James Myron "Jimmy" Ward, fell far short of his
predecessor's eloquence but maintained the same high level of passion --
especially when it involved proponents of the civil rights movement. His
works appeared daily on the front page. When he wasn't inveighing about
"Money Bags Martin" [MLK], he sometimes turned his fires toward me. "Heap
Redskins in that integrated wigwam at Tougaloo" he would say, and he more
than occasionally referred to me as "heap big troublemaker." Years later,
late in 1979, following our large civil rights retrospective at Tougaloo and
Millsaps colleges, Jimmy Ward sourly commented that we should hold the next
one in the old State Fairgrounds concentration camp -- notorious during our
Jackson Movement period.
I grew up, of course, in Northern Arizona [and, to
some extent, in Western New Mexico.] My most basic principles, as an
organizer and teacher and human being, stem fundamentally from Iroquois
ideals. [I was seven when, on an trip East by my father and myself, I was
presented with an extremely powerful Iroquois boy's bow at Onondaga.] Those
ideals, not restricted by any means to the Iroquois Confederacy [Haudenosaunee] but
embracing the cultures of other tribal nations, have been succinctly set
"The Basic Ideal of manhood was that of the "good
hunter." Such a man was self-disciplined, autonomous, responsible. He was
a patient and efficient huntsman, a generous provider to his family and
nation, and a loyal and thoughtful friend and clansman. He was also a stern
and ruthless warrior in avenging any injury done to those under his care.
And he was always stoical and indifferent to privation, pain, and even
[From Anthony F.C. Wallace, The Death and the Rebirth
of the Seneca, 1969. [I should add that despite the use of the past tense in
the foregoing paragraph, much of this ethos continues to this very day among
the Six Nations of the Confederacy -- and, as I've noted, is found generally
in Native tribal societies.] And this fine book by
Brian Rice: Seeing The World With Aboriginal Eyes: A Four Directional
Perspective On Human And Non-Human Values, Cultures, And Relationships
On Turtle Island, 2005.
[See my review of this:
And there are certainly our family ancestral
in that genre. And very much our special entities [in my case, The
And to those dimensions, I added the Western
"frontier" ideal so well epitomized by the book and classic film, Shane [the
social justice gunman], and then, as time and events carried me on along my
River of No Return, the teachings of old Western Wobblies who consistently
emphasized the importance of out-reach Organizing -- transposed into Vision
and principled pork-chop pragmatism: each of those dimensions equally
important, each mutually complementary.
I've always stood with that personal catechism of
mine -- used it as my primary measure. I should also include my own
syncretic theology -- a mix of Catholicism [and a dash of Anglicanism] and
a good amount from several traditional Native perspectives. For me, and I
don't prattle about it and I don't export, it's foundational and contextual
-- sometimes more to the fore than at other points, always there somewhere.
I get along well with all cats, most dogs and mules,
and although pretty much a "loner" always in my inner recesses, with most
It's not too hard, usually, to have
principled rapport with Friends and Good Movements. But tests that can often
arise include Adversaries, some of them as committed to their principles as
I am to mine. But even there, I've sometimes been able to build principled
bridges. In the spring of '58, we began -- from my dorm room at Sahuaro
Hall -- a campaign to greatly improve campus food and housing arrangements
at Arizona State, Tempe. The school has always been big on Greeks -- so big
that many of those generally conservative kids [most were then admirers of
Barry Goldwater] reside in dormitories. Already recognized as an up and
coming young activist, I was able to personally enlist every single
fraternity and sorority in our very successful campaign.
I well remember Erle Johnston of Mississippi. [Some
coming-up material on Erle and some on my Colorado State speaking gig are
drawn in part from earlier pieces of mine.]
In late March, 1988, in the Deep South for several
speaking engagements, I and my oldest son, John, had dinner one evening at
an excellent restaurant on the outskirts of Jackson. Our host, Erle
Johnston, who had grown up in Grenada in north Mississippi, a veteran newspaperman, a much older person than I, had been, in
the Old Days, a shrewd, mortal and deadly adversary. A leading figure in
the Ross Barnett administration -- public relations director of the State
Sovereignty Commission ["Watchdog Agency"] and then its head -- he came to
see more clearly than anyone else in that whole camp the bloody abyss into
which the then dominant [White] Citizens Councils movement ["States Rights /
Racial Integrity"] was taking Mississippi. As early as 1962, calling
himself "a practical segregationist," he resigned from the Citizens
Councils and began to criticize the Council leadership as "extremist."
And then, a bit later, in a truly extraordinary move given his
surroundings,he proceeded in two significant steps to cut off a
long-standing state government subsidy [interracial tax dollars] to the
White Councils which had been regularly channeled through the Sovereignty
Commission. The fiery national Council leader, Bill Simmons of Jackson,
immediately called on Governor Ross Barnett to fire Johnston -- but
Barnett, loyal to an old friend, refused. Johnston caught heavy flak but
hung on. He was now calling Simmons "The Rajah of Race."
Johnston, thus the very first moderate-of-sorts in the old Mississippi
segregationist camp, continued his own strange journey onward into the
surrealistic transitional administration of the new Governor [former Lt.
Governor], Paul B Johnson, Jr [1964-68] -- where Erle served increasingly as
a kind of race-relations mediator in the then early-on and sometimes chaotic
rapidly desegregating racial situation. He left state government in 1968, by
then quietly convinced of the validity and necessity of racial integration,
to return to his newspaper, the Scott County Times. Years later, he ran for
mayor of his substantial town of Forest and won -- with virtually all of the
many Black votes. [As Mayor, he once desperately called me in North Dakota
for advice on how to deal with a heavy snowfall. I was, of course,
experienced with that problem and was quite helpful to him. Basically I
told him, "You've got sun and warmth. Just let it melt off. That's the
Navajo way." He took my advice. Around this same time, he conveyed the
concerns of Ross Barnett about our frigid plight, "way up there in that
awful North Dakota." We received the same message via letter from Mrs
Virginia Durr of Alabama who, with her late lawyer husband, Clifford, had
been pioneer fighters for civil liberties and civil rights as far back as
the '30s. [Mrs Durr was a sister-in-law of US Supreme Court justice Hugo
Erle Johnston wrote a number of good books on Mississippi. As time went on,
he sent me copies of them all. His initial one, Roll With Ross, was a study
of Ross Barnett and that very turbulent administration. I reviewed it,
favorably, for the quarterly Journal of Southern History [came out in
November '81 along with a review of my own book] -- and that's how Erle and
I connected  in Post-War Mississippi. A later 1990 book of his, large
and full and very honest, is Mississippi's Defiant Years: 1953-1973: An
Interpretive Documentary with Personal Experiences.
It carries a an eloquent Foreword by his old friend, also from Grenada,
William F. "Bill" Winter. It is Bill Winter who, as Mississippi State Tax
Collector in the Old Days, was the one significant public official at any
level who flatly refused to join the Citizens Councils. His own
gubernatorial administration, 1980-84, was one of the very best Mississippi
has ever had. In his Foreword to Defiant Years, Bill Winter wrote: "This is
a book about a time and place that will forever be etched in the memory of
those of us who lived in Mississippi in the 1950's and '60's."
Mississippi's Defiant Years [which opens with a Tribute to long time Black
civil rights activists Aaron Henry and Charles Evers], carries a number of
testimonials from various persons of some prominence in the Mississippi
milieu -- and the back book cover conspicuously features four of those:
General William D. McCain, president emeritus of University of Southern
Mississippi; Hodding Carter III, of many things -- including Secretary of
State for Jimmy Carter; myself [ then John R Salter, Jr]; and the noted
American historian from USM, Neil R. McMillen.
Only in Mississippi.
Richard Barrett, the arch-Nazi Nationalist Movement leader from Learned,
Mississippi [near Jackson] venomously attacked Erle Johnston [and myself and
others] through this whole latter-day period. He was especially vitriolic
toward Erle who he consistently termed a "scalawag." Interestingly, Barrett
is a Dixie Convert -- originally from New Jersey [which, I'm sure, was glad
to see him leave long, long ago.]
As we ate in that late March, 1988 evening, Erle and I and John were
surrounded in the restaurant by a lively throng of high school students
celebrating a friend's birthday. The honoree was Black and the group very
well mixed on a Black / White basis. As this encouraging [but now long
racially commonplace] event proceeded, Erle, in response to a question from
me, talked about the status and health of the once huge and powerful
Citizens Councils -- no friends of his to the bitter end! He told us they'd
moved their "national headquarters" several times and were now in very
modest quarters. He'd been over there to look over their extremely large
"They sit each day at a long table and talk about the old days. Got a lot
of books in there and sometimes they just sit and read."
"Is my book there?" I asked.
"You bet it is," he grinned. "At least three copies."
"Bill Simmons, is he there?".
Erle nodded. "Faithfully, from what I hear."
"And Dr. Evans?" [Medford Evans, arch-ideologue and former college English
professor -- and the father of the Indianapolis Star-based national
conservative writer, M. Stanton Evans.]
"He, too," said Erle. "All the old guard."
Only a very few years after that, the Citizens Councils hung it up and went
formally out of business.
Back in time, but again at Jackson -- June 13 1963 -- and at a point of
great high drama, two days after the murder of our good friend
and colleague, Medgar W. Evers, Field Secretary for the Mississippi NAACP:
Chairman of the Strategy Committee of the Jackson
Movement, and Advisor to the Jackson NAACP Youth Council, I was observing
close-up one of our many non-violent demonstrations. That was quickly
surrounded by many police and arrested en masse. A number of club wielding
cops then charged me. I stood my ground, facing them and -- in full view of
a bevy of national and state media persons of all kinds -- was struck a
number of times and fell unconscious [rare for me] into what rapidly became
a puddle of muddy blood. Then, with consciousness recovered, and in a
conventional paddy wagon and covered with blood and dirt, I was hauled off
to the State Fairgrounds Concentration Camp. Someone told me I'd been
charged with disturbing the peace and resisting arrest. Then I lay by
myself in the wagon -- the outside heat was 100 degrees -- and finally a
police officer in civilian garb came. He was M.B. Pierce, Chief of
Detectives. Very quietly he said to me, "I'm sorry, professor." He called
a two-person police team over, men who'd had nothing to do with my beating,
and told them to take me to University Hospital. As I left the paddy wagon,
I raised my fist to my many, many imprisoned mostly young
fellow activists -- and they waved, cheered.
Silently, the two police -- roughly my age -- took me
in their cop car to the hospital. There and glancing momentarily into a
mirror, I noted that I indeed "looked a mess" -- and from top to bottom. We
sat in a waiting room, silently. I noted that one cop was rather short and
the other much taller. They seemed to me to be "country boys" -- which, in
many ways, I was as well.
A doctor came. As he surveyed and grasped the scene,
he became visibly tense. He checked me over quickly, said there was a lot
of stitching to do, and he'd be back. Then the short police officer, who
was explicitly hostile, said, suddenly, "Half breeds. Bastards." I looked
at him as he went on, "They say that, out where you're from, Arizona and
all, people are all mixed up with Indians." [In the lexicon of the Southern
Segs, "mixing" always ultimately carries a biological connotation.]
And I said, "Now that is a fact -- in some cases. Me,
The short officer followed with, "Do you speak
I said, simply, "Nope."
Then the taller officer asked, "Ever do any hunting
out there in Arizona?
"Been a hunter and gun owner all my life," I
replied. And for the three of us, everything then changed!
While we continued to wait for the laggard doc, we
swapped hunting and gun stories back and forth with zeal. For those good
minutes, our turf ranged from the Mississippi swamps and river bottoms all
the way out to Northern Arizona and the Sycamore Wilderness. And as we
traveled along, we knowledgeably compared the merits of various makes and
types of hunting firearms.
The doctor came, offered judiciously placed
anesthesia shots. I declined and, while he stitched along, the two police
watched me intently. I didn't move a muscle, barely flicked an eye. Stoic
-- helped by a high pain threshold.
That completed, the medic advised me to be alert for
a possible concussion -- and, back in the police car, we continued to the
Jackson City Jail. And the hunting and gun talk continued right along.
As we neared our destination, the taller officer
changed the subject. "We have a guy in our unit with your name, Salter.
He's from Hattiesburg. When we really want to rile him up, we ask him if
he's related to you."
And we all laughed at that.
As we disembarked from the car and walked to the
jail, we saw a horde of excited, well-dressed mostly younger women -- maybe
three dozen. I heard shrieks, "Here he comes -- Professor Salter! And
then, "There he is! That's him!" There were cameras. My new found police
buddies were obviously embarrassed. [To be frank about it, I felt sorry
for Elvis Presley for the first time in my life.] But always conscious of
good manners, I smiled and nodded at the ladies -- who I later learned were
from Women for Constitutional Government, a sort of [White] Citizens Council
Inside, my companions and I said -- very, very
quickly and quietly -- a
goodbye and good luck and good hunting. I was booked, put into a cell, and
early in the evening bailed out by NAACP lawyers. I made my way to the Blair Street AME Church where I spoke
to a packed audience in my bloody shirt and trousers, head partly bandaged.
And from our guards outside, there were reports of armed young white men
driving back and forth around the church.
A little later on that evening, I telephoned Martin Luther King.
I asked Dr King if he would come to Jackson for
Medgar's funeral, two days hence. And of course, Martin King readily agreed
Lots happened, but now and then for a few days after
the bad beating and the congenial visit at University Hospital, a Jackson
police car would suddenly pull up alongside me. And there they were: my
fellow hunters and gun persons. "You all right?" one would ask. "Head OK?"
And I would say, "Always OK. Doing just fine. Hard
head. How're you all?"
And they'd grin, wave, drive quickly away.
A week after Medgar's death, I and a companion were
almost killed and my car destroyed via a rigged auto wreck on Hanging Moss
Road, north end of Jackson.
I never saw the two police officers again. But, from
time to time, I remember them very well -- and I always wish them good
I spoke on our civil rights movement at Colorado
State University, Ft Collins, late in '64. My hosts, several profs in
political science [nice, but Easterners], warned me immediately that the
conservative youth group, Young Americans for Freedom, would be out "in
force" at my speech and real trouble could ensue. They were clearly
jittery. I told them I knew how to handle it. And I did. [Sorry to dampen
some of the current crop of radicals, but I didn't see this YAF incursion as
"fascism," incipient or full blown.]
When I stepped out on the podium to a very large audience, They were sitting
in the second row, almost two dozen. Dressed in clean, worn Levis and white
shirts and boots, I knew that garb well. In Arizona, where we frequently
wore just that -- and frankly I still do occasionally -- we called the
clothes combo, the "Arizona Tux." Nothing unusual there. More than that,
most of the YAF kids looked much like many of my school contemporaries.
I looked down at them, stony-faced, narrow eyed, and ostensibly mean. They
stared and glared up at me. And then I said:
"I'm from Flagstaff -- the Real West. My coming here is a kind of
concession. My friends at Flag who went out of state to forestry school
could either go to Oregon State or here to Fort Collins. They always chose
Oregon because, to us, this country here, east of the Rockies, is the
beginning of The East." And then, gritting my teeth, much as my horse
ranching great grandfather in Dakota Territory [1870 on] would have done as
he gobbled up big chunks of land and used very dubious means to force out
homesteaders, I finished:
"To us, this is the land of the dirt farmers."
Several of the YAF kids downright wilted, slumped in their seats. Others
just looked shocked and shattered.
And then I grinned broadly at them. And they grinned back.
It was a great evening and, when it was over, every single one of the YAFers
came up and shook my hand. All were very friendly and several said they had
And one added, as he grinned, "You really aren't
what we'd thought you'd be."
I learned a very important lesson in 1964 in a hot
and crowded church one night at Enfield, in Northeastern North Carolina.
Our Movement was indeed moving quite well indeed. But it was a very tough
struggle against great odds and crises were many. Feelings in that church
were high and strong. and when I, the organizer/speaker rose to the podium,
I was fired up. Somewhere in my call-to-arms, I began to talk about the
County Attorney, Rom [Romeus] Parker, a key foe and, although not one of the
thick-as-sand-fleas Klansmen, a very committed segregationist. He was a man
of average build, seemed to wear the same dark business suit and tie, and
his not-that-old a face was rather heavy and worn.
And one of his legs was badly crippled.
In that church, my focus on Rom Parker and his
sins sharpened. The eyes of people glistened. I noted signs of movement,
angry tension. Full agreement with my every hot-eyed word.
And then, I began to mimic Rom Parker's crippled
gait. I jerked back and forth in front of the crowd -- noting the
considerable resonance this pantomime evoked.
The tempo of angry feeling in the church rose higher,
And then, suddenly, I stopped my act. Cold turkey.
There was sudden silence.
I am not known for apologies -- whether sparingly
delivered or profuse. But, in my own way, in that hot, tense church, I did
Shaken, I told the people: "I should never have done
that -- mocked another human being in such a cruel and thoughtless way.
We're all committed to something much, much higher -- vastly higher, vastly
I finished, "Rom Parker is a human being."
And heads began to nod. There were murmured "Amens." Then
there was silence for a few moments more -- and then the minister led off
with "Amazing Grace" and we all joined in.
I continued my talk and we continued our most
And I never did anything like that again. Never.
Months later, spearheaded and pushed by our Movement,
The Change began to come to that hard-core section -- and others across the
sweep of Dixie. Under the eyes of Klansmen, angry white parents, state and
some Federal officials, we had succeeded some time back in securing token
school desegregation -- Blacks and one Indian -- into schools in two of the
towns. And now I and a few others were meeting at the county courthouse
with school administrative officials to work out the integration / transfer
of even more "minority" students. It was a low-key meeting involving some
discussion of new Federal guidelines, nothing dramatic. Rom Parker was
there as County Attorney. Earlier, I had loaned my car to a colleague and,
with the meeting adjourned, I suddenly realized as I approached the
courthouse door that it was raining very hard outside. My friend had not
yet come back with my vehicle.
Most people had already left. But, behind me, I
heard someone coming down the stairway. It was Rom Parker. He and I looked
at one another. Then he said, "I'm heading back to Enfield. Could you use
I was almost tempted -- but my car was coming. "I've
got someone bringing my car here," I said. "Or I would be happy to go with
And then I added, "I greatly appreciate your offer."
And we shook hands.
It has been, so far, a very long trail. In the
course of it all, I've accumulated a respectable arrest record [for good
causes] and a fair number of literal, as well as figurative scars. There
have been many faces and many voices along the trail -- and I can close my
eyes and still see and hear a great many of them. There will be more to
I've respected almost everyone I've ever met. Many
indeed I've liked. And some have been foes. And of those, I have fought
many in the good struggles -- always for a full measure of liberty, material
well being, and spiritual rapport for all. Always have, always will.
There are many forces, many entities -- some seen,
some unseen -- in the World we know and in our Cosmos.
Vision and strength and courage come from that Great
Complex. We, Humanity, will always take those gifts, some way and some
how, and ride with them higher and higher, through the storms that pass
-- always toward Life and the Sun.
From the Mountains of Eastern Idaho -
Nialetch / Onen
HUNTER GRAY [HUNTER BEAR/JOHN R SALTER JR] Mi'kmaq
Abenaki/St. Regis Mohawk
Protected by NaŽshdoŽiŽbaŽiŽ
That's a great piece, with quite a sweep. Great
memories, relevant, of course, to the here and now. Really, it's too
good to live entirely within the confines of the website. Have to get
it out there.
Whatever those interior
forces just let 'em keep bubbling..... It has been
good to watch your words re-emerging along with the magazine Norla edits
each week... and now I've reactivated the Bear's Lair in mytown.ca.
I'll go pluck your pieces from recent We! Magazine issues and copy them
this place.... same url as we used up until two years ago:
Now if we could just get Cornet more
than twice a year and Sam at least
once.... some more good Left voices could be heard amid the pitter
and chitter chatter on this internutty e-highway....
I greatly enjoy and admire all that you so
generously share. My trail recently took me to Egypt where I
presented our peace program to several universities. There is a
reasonable chance that Cairo University will adopt it in the
future. That is what the peace game has turned into, walk the path,
listen carefully, present a bold challenge, offer some tools, wait,
and then keep in touch. It has finally paid off at the University
of Missouri. They are the only U.S. university to adopt our
program, and recently told me they are creating a Peace Room on
campus as a focus point for the program. Good for them. That will
provide a model for others to follow.
Your hunting stories remind me of my years in
India. There was a good reason to hunt for the table, and those of
us who enjoyed that kept a number of families supplied with safe
meat from the jungle. Hunting also provided a reasonable cover for
some our intelligence activity. The two tigers I killed were
secondary to getting into a missile site.
I know that the Sycamore Canyon plan is a
family affair, and none of the non-family postings about it have
been bold enough to poke a nose through the tent flap, but I want to
know if you would consider including an outsider. When I presented
our peace program at tribal colleges on the reservations in South
Dakota, I was given high praise when a Lakota told me, "You're not
too bad for a White Guy."
NOTE BY HUNTER BEAR: 1/26/08
When I notified friends and/or List members of
this particular piece, I sent out this message:
I am not always specifically aware of my
interior forces and those around me that propel and shape the nature
of a particular piece of my writing. Some things just flow forth.
This falls very much into that context. It's a little too long to
go out as a full e-message but here, if you're interested, is our
very new Link to our very new webpage:
[And pro forma apologies if you should happen
to get this more than once.]
Keep Fighting, Hunter [Hunter Bear]
Hunter, not too long for the interested. I
appreciate your comment about showing respect for adversaries.
We are looking forward to talking with you on
Monday. The conference room includes a long, oval shaped table,
which will accommodate perhaps 20 people sitting down. Your
audience, by design, is the Group I get to spend so much of my time
with. There will be a few of my colleagues, and my wife will be in
attendance as well. Please let me know if you need anything. Thank
you very much for everything.
NOTE BY HUNTER:
My talk on January 28 2007 went very well.
I spoke for the better part of three hours on the origin and
development of my career, life and times as an activist organizer.
Covered several decades and a number of situations. It was a
fairly small group, and a very good one. Enjoyed it.
Hunter, I finally had a chance to read this piece.
PETER GRAY SALTER [MACK]:
Wouldn't it have been easier to sit up on
your hill -- in the dark, in pain -- in judgment of your foes? To
find solace in your triumphs? They threw everything they had at you,
including billyclubs, and you broke them. And they're still broken.
And you're not. But you've always been good at seeing things in
people, common denominators, that can shorten the distance between
two sides. It may be temporary, or it may be after the fact, but it
makes it harder for zealots to be zealots.
But really, all of this says much more about
you than them.
I agree with my brother; this needs a wider
audience. With a little editing...
AND MORE FROM PETER [MACK]:
A couple of weeks ago, Jack and I were talking
about a story in Rolling Stone. It was about a young free-thinker drawn
like a magnet to protests, rallies and revolutions. He joined other
artist-types fighting NYC for their right to continue squatting in an
abandoned building. He lived in a treehouse to try to save old-growth
forests from loggers on the Pacific Coast. He traveled to Mexico, where
striking teachers were battling the government. Somewhere along the way,
he started videotaping the uprisings and distributing his footage. He
was killed in Mexico -- shot by government thugs -- while filming the
teacher strike. And then he was martyred by the counter-culture.
A sad story all the way around. This was a bright
kid from an affluent Chicago suburb. His family didn't necessarily share
his views, but they loved him.
I could tell the story ignited something in Jack.
He likes the idea of being on that side of things.
Naturally, the conversation turned to you. You've
been on that side of things.
But I think there's a big difference, and I told
him. This kid seemed to be drawn to the fight itself, not necessarily
the cause. Globe-trotting to the nearest skirmish.
You're drawn first to the cause, and --
if necessary -- aren't afraid to fight for what you believe in.
WILLIAM "BILL" MANDEL:
"Forces and Faces" is a fine piece.
Just googling around and came across some of
your writings and then the web site. I'm just a white dude, don't
even claim 1% of Indian blood. Though I do like fry bread and Navajo
tacos... And I enjoyed reading your stuff, it's informative and
interesting. Just thought I'd let you know.
RESPONSE BY HUNTER:
Thanks very much, Brian, for a very kind word
on what, hopefully, is one of the first spring days here in the
Snake River country. I appreciate your thoughts much and am quite
glad you like our website and my writing style [and subjects.] Fry
bread and Navajo tacos are big staples in this household -- and you
are choosing wisely in your culinary choices. Keep in touch and, if
I can, at any point, answer any questions -- well, I'll certainly
Our very best, Hunter Bear
FROM ALEX WESTAD TO HUNTER BEAR [MARCH 9 2008]
FROM HUNTER BEAR TO ALEX WESTAD -- AND
TO BRET [QUICK BEAR] SALTER: [MARCH 10 2008]
I just want to take sometime out of my schedule to thank you for the information
you gave me regarding yourself and the Jackson Movement. I along with the help
of Mr. Daniel was able to construct a project that was both historically
accurate as well as telling an accurate depiction of the stories and other
conflicts you participated in during the 60's. More specifically with the
Jackson Movement and your role in it.
History Day was last week, and I did an individual performance using the
information I received in your e-mails, your website and other research. It was
the best 10 minutes of my life. I (and Mr. Daniel) thought that I did the best
job that I could have done. I received the "Honorable Mention" award but did not
move on to the State Level. But, nevertheless I managed to spread word about
yourself and the role you played in the Civil Rights Movement during the 1960's
Thanks again for all your help in these last few months.
Thanks very much indeed for your
very good letter. And congratulations on the successful outcome of
your most challenging and interesting ninth grade History Day project.
I am truly honored that you chose to depict me and a number of the key
challenges that we faced in our historic Jackson Movement.
Tomorrow is the Mississippi primary
and it's highly significant that, in contrast to the bad old days, a
vast number of Mississippi black people are registered to vote and will
be the decisive factor in the outcome. Many pundits predict that a good
number of white people there will vote for Barack Obama. Mississippi has
come a long way -- still has a long way to go [as does the whole
country] -- but things are infinitely better now than the blood-dimmed
days some of us remember so well and will never forget. I am very
pleased that you chose to pursue those issues.
As I've often thought and said
these past several months, "It wasn't so long ago that we had to fight
to survive at a Woolworth lunch counter!"
In an interesting coincidence, one
of my grandsons -- Bret Salter [Quick Bear], now in the seventh grade at
Glyndon, Minnesota [Fargo / Moorhead area] -- did much the same thing as
yourself. [And you, of course, are not that far geographically from him,
being at White Bear Lake.] He dug into our large website and formulated
his fine version of Me. I am much honored by that as well. Like you,
he did very well in his class presentation and drew a high grade. He had
the advantage of knowing me personally -- but, for your part, you asked
all the right questions and I'm sure that your depiction, like his,
"captured" me very fully.
So I am quite proud of both of you
guys. You are very fine troopers indeed.
And I'm quite sure you will both
continue your very solid interest in the key social justice issues that
exist now -- and, in one form or another -- will stretch far into the
Good Future that each of you will be privileged to enjoy even as you
both join so many others in making this rather worn and tired world a
far better place.
Please give my best, Alex, to the
good Mr Daniel. Doesn't seem that long ago that he was a student of
mine at UND.
Once again, my strong
congratulations to you and to Quick Bear.
Take care and all best. As an old
friend from the Old Days in my native Southwest so often said, "Success
will be ours in the long run." [Juan Chacon of New Mexico.]
JOHN SOLBACH [A COUSIN, AND A LEADER
IN KANSAS DEMOCRATS:
John, I thought of you this
morning on the eve of the Mississippi primary. Remember back when. .
. your mother sent my mother news clippings of what was happening in
Jackson in the early sixties and your activities to make things
right. It gives me a great sense of vicarious satisfaction to know
you were there facing down what needed to change and now seeing
that change grow from seeds you helped sow then on rocky
inhospitable terrain. Makes me " proud to be an American, where t
least I know I'm free". We visited Jackson some years ago and the
civil rights display at the old state house where you are featured.
Facing the draft in the mid60s I
joined the Marines for a 397 day combat tour. I still hear from some
of the men I served with 40 years ago, and I respond.
I much enjoyed your letter to Alex.
It is heart warming to observe the strongest hope for civilization
(our grand children and their peers) to make the efforts to learn
about and honor the struggles that form the foundation for their
responsible action. Don't let them forget that there is still fire
in the belly of their grandfathers....
Thanks for sharing. I , too,
am proud of the young men. As I've told you before ,
my children know your story,
Medgar's and the Woolworth group.
Love, Mary Ann
Note by H: Mary Ann is an
old civil rights colleague from Mississippi days. "WWW" --
We Will Win -- was the ringing slogan of our
I read with awe the
writing you have posted on your site. I've never read
words so full of urgency yet so compassionate for even
one's "enemies" and so full of hunger for
reconciliation. The story of the two policemen, the good
ol' boys, in Jackson was a great example of
transformative love. I'm looking forward to receiving
the book. Thanks for all you have done.
THIS -- OUT OF A STRANGE PAST: A HUMAN CONCERN
[HUNTER GRAY MARCH 18 2008]
FROM MS. B.B. TO HUNTER:
My name is [Ms.] B. B. I googled my great-uncle
who is Jack Cauthen. I read a little bit on your
website, but wasn't really sure how you were trying to
portray my uncle. He did not kill Emmett, he fished
him out of the water.
Thank you for reading this. I hope you weren't trying
to put him in a bad light, he was a good man. He
passed away yesterday and I can only hope there won't
be reporters there. Reporters from around the world
have tried to interview him. I hope his funeral is a
peaceful one out of respect for the family.
RESPONSE FROM H:
First, I'm quite sorry to learn that Jack Cauthen has
passed away. And I
join you in your hope and expectation that his will be a
The only mentions I have of him in any of my writings
are within a
relatively narrow frame: his role as chief deputy to
then Madison County
[Canton] sheriff, Billy Noble. I assume that, when you
mention "Emmett," you
are referring to Emmett Till -- 1955. Yours is the first
that I have ever
heard anywhere that even implied that your great uncle
when Emmett Till's body was recovered. The real killers
of Emmett Till were
well known, almost from the outset.
My [adversarial] involvement with Madison County
authorities covered the
first part of the '60s decade. The Tougaloo College
campus was partly
within Hinds Co. [Jackson, of course] and partly in
Madison County. We
lived in the latter half. This led to some more or less
with Billy Noble et al. and thus with Jack Cauthen and
I have to say, in all honesty, that the Madison County
during that era was pretty racist -- as were most of
them in the Magnolia
State. Now, of course, much has changed for the better
in Mississippi and
the South in general. At various times from the 1970s on
for many years, I
occasionally found myself having interesting dialogues
with former old
enemies. Sometimes we wound up liking each other.
I would not have minded such a visit with your great
uncle. It's he, of
course, who personally handed me the sweeping court
injunction of which I
remain very proud. [Of course, we defied the
But, again and far more deeply, I much regret Jack
Cauthen's passing and
join all of those of good will in wishing you all a
quiet and peaceful
service and many fine and enduring memories.
Thanks for writing. I'm happy to clarify that which I
With best wishes, I am -
Hunter Gray [formerly, John R Salter Jr]
FROM JOHN SALTER [BEBA]:
Well, you handled this pretty diplomatically. What was
Actually, my letter is a pretty full one. The sheriff,
Noble, was a genuinely bad guy. [L.A. Rainey, of Neshoba
Co infamy, had learned the sheriff's trade at Canton.]
Cauthen was, as I indicated, Noble's chief deputy and,
in those days, a sheriff, or Gov or some other major
elected officials, couldn't succeed themselves [the
legislators were exempted from this] -- so the chief
deputy would serve a hitch, etc. The high sheriff in the
South of those days enjoyed much power in the county
and, as a tax collector, drew much pay. And there were
often bootlegger connections. But the major lawmen role
in the South when we were there was always to keep out
"outside agitators" and to keep Blacks in their "place"
Although Noble was definitely muy malo, I did not hear
anything about Cauthen that was unusually negative.
About par for the times. Of course, he went along with
Noble faithfully. He seemed to be the public face of the
sheriff's department -- especially when newsmen were
You will remember my tale of our going to Canton for the
Those days, horrific as they were in much of the South,
were definitely "colorful." Glad we had a chance to see
it all and participate in the New Day Coming.
When you and I and later Mack and Maria and Baby Thomas
were making trips to Mississippi from Tsaile, Billy
Noble had become Canton police chief. At that point, the
town -- unlike the county -- had a white voting
majority. By then the county itself, always
predominately Black, had a strong Black voting bloc "out
in the rural". Now Jackson has expanded in all
directions and much of Madison County is kind of
We went there on many occasions when we were at Tougaloo.
Like going 'way back in time.
[Note by H: On the memorable trip to Canton for our
Madison Co. license plate, see
BOB GATELY OBSERVES:
Ah, Hunter, Hate the
sin, love the sinner...Sleeping dogs come to lie
with the saints...Is there a special place beyond where
we will all
meet in harmony ? We hope and pray all is forgiven and
we go on
living in peace,
ALWAYS AHEAD, ALWAYS TOWARD
THE SUN [HUNTER GRAY / HUNTER BEAR] MARCH 19 2008
I very much appreciate
the quite good comment made by Bob Gately yesterday with
regard to my correspondence of this
past weekend with the great niece of an old adversary,
Jack Cauthen, who had just passed away. Bob wrote:
Ah, Hunter, Hate the sin, love the sinner...Sleeping
dogs come to lie
with the saints...Is there a special place beyond where
we will all
meet in harmony ? We hope and pray all is forgiven and
we go on
living in peace,
A little less than three years ago, I wrote to a friend
regarding the mob and its allies in our very turbulent
Woolworth Sit-In at Jackson almost 45 years ago -- and
it's posted on the first of our two website Woolworth
"The hostile throng, inside and out, came to number
several hundred at least.
I have always found it difficult to blame the kids in
the mob -- at least
beyond a certain point. One of the things I consistently
did was to study
Deep South history, sociology, culture. I knew where
they were coming from
and that awareness, which convicts the Big Mules and
racist political allies, also makes it tough to be too
hard on those kids.
Beba [John] in more recent times has been with me when
we have had
interesting discussions in Mississippi with former
adversaries. In long
time, even former Gov. Ross R Barnett used to convey his
sympathy through a mutual friend to "Professor Salter"
--" 'way up there in
that awful North Dakota". [Southerners of whatever
ethnicity have been
consistently horrified by the N.D. winters.]
And then, of course, there are those to whom Rhett
Butler's comment to
Scarlett certainly applies, "The Old Guard dies but it
Soon after the Brown deseg decision in '54, the white
movement -- middle and upper echelon class-wise -- began
in Mississippi and,
quickly pervasive, captured the state with its clarion
Rights, Racial Integrity." It spread across the South,
pervasively, but in consistently sinister and
influential fashion. In due
course, among its many poisonous branches and leaves,
was its "curriculum"
for the white grade schools. In early years, kids were
taught that "blue
birds play with blue birds only" and "chickens do not
mix." Quack nonsense
then explained this latter by indicating that, if one
took 100 chickens, 50
of them white and the other 50 black, they would
themselves. In lessons designed for the later grades,
kids were told that
"[White] Southerners built America," "[White]
Southerners are the true
patriots", "Race-Mixers are Communists," "Race-Mixers
want to destroy the
South and America."
And the products of that hideous catechism graced that
Woolworth Store [and
many other battle lines] for hours on that fateful day,
May 28, 1963, at
Generalizations are inevitably challenging when it comes
to Humanity -- and certainly to the behavioral positions
the protagonists in a Cause as intense as the Southern
Civil Rights Movement whose legacy and the issues it
obviously remain very vital and viable to this very
In the wake of its greatest intensity and a number of
highly significant victories, people -- being people --
"rebuild" in the quite emotionally drained South. And
they have been doing so in the context of some -- some
new social arrangements. And, although much distance --
regionally and nationally -- remains to be traveled and
negative ethos of "the skeleton hand of history" remains
at one remove, those changes have been truly
And those changes will continue -- again, both
regionally and nationally.
I've always felt -- and have tried to act in accordance
with that feeling -- that, while we learn much from the
past, it's critical
that we look to the future and the Sun. Years ago, I
wrote and placed this on the frontal portion of our
"We cannot run away from the Winds of Challenge and
Change. We have to take History and ride with it. Always
ahead, always toward the Sun. And always aware that
Democracy is natural and, given half a chance, it will
always flourish. We have big fish to fry and we're going
to have to do it in an American skillet -- over a
long-burning fire from the timber of our own forests."
That leaves, at least for me -- but also for many other
veterans of intense struggles of many kinds -- no room
for hate. And no room for a backpack loaded with old
grudges and old recriminations. Fight hard for sure --
but never forget or ignore the essential Humanity of all
So, again Bob, I much appreciate your comment. That,
along with the brief correspondence with the great niece
of the late Chief Deputy Sheriff of Madison County,
Mississippi,["Out of a Strange Past, a Human
Concern"], can be found in the lower portion of this
In Solidarity, Hunter [Hunter Bear]
PETER GRAY SALTER
I can't disagree with you, Pop. And
there's probably little good carrying around
a backpack of new grudges, either.
But when I was
younger, I used to study the sit-in photo in the New
Yorker, and fantasize about seeking revenge against
the punks in the crowd converging behind you.
Heading down to Mississippi and looking them up, one
by one, and letting them know who I was, who you
were, and why I was there. There was one in
particular whose expression and posture repulsed
me. (Years later, I even thought it would make a
good magazine story pitch.)
But when I passed
through Jackson two years ago with my 18-year-old
son, we made a visit to the Woolworth site. It's a
grassy lot surrounded by high-rises and parking
ramps, gone like a rotten tooth. People were walking
by drinking Starbucks and talking on cell phones and
not for a moment realizing the gravity of the place.
And I thought: Well,
shit. And then I thought: Well, this is gone, and
those faces in the photos have faded into old men,
but you're still here. Maybe not in Mississippi, or
in 'that awful North Dakota.'
Up on an Idaho hill,
now. But you're still here.
PICKERSGILL WRITES RE MACK'S OBSERVATION:
This is a delight
FEDERAL JUDGE THELTON HENDERSON [NORTHERN
CALIFORNIA], HUNTER GRAY, ATTORNEY STEVE
MCNICHOLS [SEPTEMBER 24 2008]
I'm honored to have
facilitated this exchange.
Steven F. McNichols
268 Bush Street, #3602
San Francisco, CA 94104-3503
FEDERAL JUDGE THELTON HENDERSON:
Thank you so much for forwarding the moving message from Hunter Gray.
It's hard to describe the emotions I feel when I communicate
with someone who was really there, as opposed to those who
read about it, no matter how sympathetic the readers were and are.
I remember so well that day in Jackson when Roy Wilkins came
to be arrested. As I recall, the NAACP was under a lot of
pressure for not being involved enough in the burgeoning
civil rights action in the South. My assignment was to
observe the arrest and to generally note any violations by
the Jackson Police or private citizens. As I approached the
corner to turn go to the Woolworth store I accepted several
leaflets being handed out by young civil rights volunteers.
I was then arrested , I've always assumed, for either
possessing leaflets or distributing the leaflets. I spent
about l/2 hour in a police van before they released me, and I
believe the idea was to simply take me out of play during the
arrest of Wilkins.
(Over the course of all these years I didn't remember that
Mrs. Wilcher was also there).
Hunter, your bravery, and that of others like you, has
remained my most important memory of my experience during my
Justice Dept. days. I've often observed that -- altho I was
arrested quite a few times-- I never felt I faced the danger
that you and the marchers did. Dr. King used to tell me that
one of the biggest contributions I could make to the movement
would be to get arrested and, even better, to get beat up in
the process. Facing the brutality of the police and racists
was a type of courage I could and can only imagine and
admire. I hope you are well, and know how important your
personal sacrifice is to so many. As Steve mentioned, I am
getting on in years, but don't feel I can retire until I make
some much-needed changes and improvements in the Calif prison
system. where a prisoner dies, on average, every 6 days for
want of decent medical care.
[Please see Steve McNichols' good post,
immediately following mine, for
I met Judge Thelton Henderson only once --
but it was at a highly dramatic time.
He, a young Justice Department attorney,
arrived at Jackson in early June 1963
in the midst of our large scale Jackson
Movement. As a result of our upheaval,
the city and at least part of the state were
ablaze with segregationist emotions
-- and racist violence ["legal" and "extra
legal/vigilante"] was pervasive. Roy
Wilkins, national head of NAACP who had
previously been with us briefly, had
returned for a very short visit and planned
to be arrested, with Medgar Evers,
in front of the by now highly symbolic
Woolworth store on downtown Capitol
Street. A Mrs Helen Wilcher, a local lady
and, like a vast number of others,
brave person, was the third member of the
trio. Mr Henderson, fresh at Jackson,
was to observe the inevitable arrests. He
was aware that, despite his Justice
affiliation, he as a Black man was at risk.
I visited with him for a time
shortly before I drove Mr Wilkins, Medgar
and Mrs Wilcher downtown, and let them
off at Woolworth -- where they were
immediately arrested [and then bonded out of
jail]. Thelton Henderson was standing on the
sidewalk only a few feet from the
store when they were seized. And he,
himself, was almost arrested.
We, understandably suspicious of Justice
Department personnel, liked Thelton
Henderson. [I've never trusted John Doar,
the lead Justice honcho in many of the
Dixie Wars.] Not long after this, Mr
Henderson was openly critical of the
Federal role in the Jackson crucible --
especially its consistently omissive
one. I never saw him again but "kept up"
occasionally over the years via media
notes. I shall always wish Thelton Henderson
very well indeed.
Dear Friends: Attached are two pictures I
took of Thelton Henderson at a San
Francisco Lawyers Club function this
evening. (Just double-click on them.)
As you may know, Judge Henderson played a
key role in the movement as an
attorney with the Civil Rights Division of
the Justice Department when Bobby
Kennedy was Attorney General. Many of you
probably remember the yeoman work
he did with John Doar in Alabama and
Mississippi. He was actually arrested
several times although not for very long.
More recently, as Chief Judge for
the Northern District of California, he
effectively took control of San
Quentin about ten years ago because of its
terrible health conditions. Judge
Henderson and the master he appointed are
still working on the problem.
Judge Henderson is now on senior status, but
still has the same marvelous,
ebullient personality he always had even
under the most dire circumstances.
His email address is
_______should you want to
drop him a line, which I think he would
Mazel tov. Steve
AND NOW TO IDAHO [HUNTER GRAY / HUNTER
BEAR] MARCH 29 2008
Idaho State University, based here at
Pocatello, is about an average sized
state higher ed school -- maybe about 12,000
students [including part-timers.] Like
too many academic institutions these days,
it's chary of "controversy" and has a
variety of veiled measures to "keep that
out." After our almost eleven years here,
ISU -- or at least certain administrative
quarters thereof -- continues to quietly
block any official speaking appearances by
me. I've been the featured speaker at a
number of signal events in this region --
some really pretty "respectable" -- and
have been interviewed a number of times by
thoughtful and respectful media folks. A
little over a year ago, ISU let it slip
that, in their opinion, I'm "too radical."
Anyway, their social justice stuff is not
especially stirring. I will say that both
Josie and Thomas got a good academic
foundation at ISU. She is an LSW social
worker, he's now on the brink of his fourth
year of med school at University of
But, of course, they got their social
justice from Our Family.
Well, ISU can't keep everyone out.
Regional tv news have all reported that
yesterday, three -- three -- mountain lions
visited the campus, just looking around.
It's a little unusual to have three in an
entourage, but likely the lions felt they
needed a little protection-in-numbers during
their stroll in the Groves of Academe. This
campus investigation by the Big Kitties
created a stir. Untroubled by that, the
lions eventually and in leisurely
fashion wandered back into the wild open
Can't say I blame them for leaving. Most
likely they felt the place was just too damn
tame. Might have even thought it was a caged
Yeah, Hunter, you nailed
it! I can certainly understand
why they would want to travel in a small
sense of solidarity is evidence of a good
generally lack, though the latter are not
join together as a rabble against the wild
imagination that can see the world beyond. I
have a little poem:
A Canadian thistle
on the university campus!
Among my best friends have been the cats
The 18th century poet, Christopher Smart,
has a long lovely poem in praise of his cat.
PETER GRAY SALTER:
No lions in Lincoln.
But on a bike ride
today, I almost passed a beaver; it was
running down the old railbed that's been
turned into a bike trail. Damn thing
turned on a dime just as I was building
enough speed to overtake it.
And I almost collided
with a deer on another trail that seemed
to be as surprised to see me as I was
surprised to see it.
And yesterday -- in
the same area -- a woman was
hospitalized after a wild turkey crashed
through her windshield.
A FORMATIVE EXPERIENCE WITH A
MISSISSIPPI TWIST: LABOR EXPLOITATION OF
A 15 YEAR OLD YOUTH [HUNTER GRAY/
HUNTER BEAR MAY 15 2008
The 15 year old is/was me. More on that
in a moment.
Along with a vast number of
others in the country, including
most if not all of those who
soldiered in Mississippi during the
Bad Old Days, I was pleased to note
Travis Childers' success in the
special Congressional election,
First District [northeast], in the
Magnolia state. Mr Childers, of
course, ran as a "conservative"
Democrat -- pro-gun [fine with me]
and anti-abortion [not my cup of
brew], but he won. And he won in
the face of blatant Republican
race-baiting re Barack, including
usage of the ostensible "silver
bullet" of Barack's former
clergyman. The Childers victory is
widely and rightly noted as a
harbinger-happening with wide
political implications come
So how does this relate to me?
Well, of course, I have some
interesting personal ties with
Mississippi. But there's another
little piece that comes to mind when
I think of its First Congressional
layout. From 1953 to 1973, it was
represented in Congress by Tom
Abernethy -- who, of course, was a
traditional Deep South
segregationist. [For a decade
prior to that, Tom Abernethy had
served as Mississippi's Congressman
for its Fourth District.]
And 'way back in time, he was a
very good friend of a second cousin
of mine, on my mother's side. That
came about some years before
Abernethy's rise to Congress, when
he was just a young lawyer. And,
equally young was my cousin,
Herbert, who left Kansas for North
Mississippi where he secured a
fairly good farm, near Okolona
[Chickasaw County]. [He was also a
chiropractor.] He and Tom Abernethy
got along very well, kept up their
friendship for many decades after
Herbert, following a couple of years
in Mississippi, returned to Kansas
to manage several farms in Clay and
Riley counties owned by his mother,
Aunt Nellie, whose husband and
Herbert's father, had been a county
sheriff who had died tragically long
before my time. Aunt Nellie and
Herbert, in due course to be joined
by Herbert's bride, all lived in an
old family homestead in a setting
which had lost its post office years
before and had never had a picture
show. Aunt Nellie had her husband's
huge revolver and was prone to hold
it as she greeted strangers at her
As the summer of '49 neared,
Herbert decided he needed a
dependable "hired man" for the
summer wheat setup and related
dimensions. Upshot was that I wound
up in that role, thanks to my mother
who carried me away from
climatically cool Northern Arizona
-- for two very grueling months of
some of the hardest labor I ever
For those two months, I worked
seven days a week from about 6 am to
7 pm. I fixed what seemed to be
countless miles of barb-wire fence,
shoveled massive amounts of
combine-harvested wheat into grain
elevators, plowed miles of turf and
disked and harrowed and all -- and
did much, much more.
Blazing sun and inferno heat --
and super high humidity.
For this I was paid one buck a
day and room and board. [Aunt
Nellie did feed me well and, in my
small bedroom, I read Herbert's
somewhat risqué collection of novels
[e.g., de Balzac.]
Herbert spent most of his time in
the Legion Club at Clay Center.
He did, when we conversed,
sometimes make positive references
to Mississippi and his friends in
that setting. And That, for
whatever reason, stuck in my mind.
Finally this ended and I was
taken some distance, still in
Kansas, to stay for a few days with
other family members on my mother's
side. I'd made about sixty dollars
and Herbert had given me a bonus of
ten bucks. I took the bonus and
used part of that to buy a fifth of
gin and some bottles of cold lemon
pop. The gin was procured for me by
a much older and sympathetic cousin,
a well-decorated WW2 vet.
Of course, being an Indian, I
shared freely with other kids one
hot evening. It didn't take long at
all for the gin to hit us all hard
-- very hard. And then great aunt
Viola, who should have been tucked
away in bed by sunset, saw what
she soon described as a
"spectacle". That led to a few
family complications for me later
on but that's another story.
I was very glad, the next summer,
to launch my successful USFS fire
fighting career in my native
Northern Arizona. I'm no dirt
Decades later, visiting in a
considerably changed Mississippi
[but always with a long way to go],
I often took breakfast -- I like
fried ham, grits, biscuits and
gravy, and strong coffee -- at a
small [and long integrated] cafe in
the Barnett Building in downtown
Jackson [yes, Ross Barnett -- and
the Old Gov was sometimes in
there.] Beba will recall the
setting and our very pleasant visit
with an old friend, the courageous
and trail-blazing civil rights
lawyer, Jess Brown.]
In the mornings, there was a
special table in the midst of the
cafe at which the [Anglo] Old Guard
often sat, ate, and visited
extensively. Some recognized me,
occasionally in a not unfriendly
fashion. One of the regulars was
former and rather
ancient Congressman Tom Abernethy,
always dressed in a jet black suit.
Fairly early on, I went over to
him, introduced myself -- quickly
indicating that I was a second
cousin of his good Kansas friend.
The old Dixicrat warmed visibly.
My name may have rung a bell but my
cousin's definitely did. "Yes," he
exclaimed, "he lived out in the
country. Had a fine little farm.
Herb went back home but we kept up
with each other until he passed
I was tempted, for a moment, to
ask the figure from Another Time
about Herbert's labor policies in
those antebellum days.
But I didn't -- because I knew
the answer. Only too well.
We shook hands cordially and went
to our respective tables. From that
point on, whenever I happened to be
in Mississippi and breakfasting in
the Barnett cafe, he always smiled
cordially at me.
It's always good to be in
Mississippi -- a place where
kinfolks count. I always hope I can
get back there sometime.
But I'll pass, at least mostly,
on Kansas. Aunt Nellie, I should
add, lived to the century mark.
I've always wished that she'd left
me that great revolver.
HUNTER GRAY [HUNTER BEAR/JOHN R SALTER JR] Mi'kmaq
Abenaki/St. Regis Mohawk
Protected by NaŽshdoŽiŽbaŽiŽ
Our Lair of Hunterbear website is now (11/2011)
almost 12 years old. It
contains a great deal of primary, first-hand material on Native
Americans, Civil Rights Movement, union labor, and organizing
techniques -- and much more. Check it out and its vast number
of component pieces. The front page itself -- the initial cover
page -- has 40 representative links.
And see this on the new, expanded and updated
edition of my book,
Jackson Mississippi -- the classic and fully detailed account of
the historic and bloody Jackson Movement of almost 50 years ago: