Capps, Charles 9/10/99 Tape 1 of 2
By Charles Bolton
This is an interview for the Mississippi Oral History Project. The interview is being recorded with Mr. Charles Capps in the Capps Archives and Museum building on August 9, 1999. The interviewer is Charles Bolton.
CC: Here in Cleveland for a number of years.
CB: I guess cotton would have been the main business around here back then in the twenties and thirties?
CC: Yes, cotton was everything. Each farm, generally speaking, had a family, team of mules, and a shotgun house every twenty acres. It was either under rental system or the sharecrop system. The people worked the land, and that continued on up into the 1950’s when the tractors became so important. A lot of the larger plantations had commissaries. All of the food and the necessities for that plantation were bought and sold through the commissaries. It was mainly a credit business. At the end of the year when the crop was picked the account was settled up and paid. What was left over went to the tenant.
CB: Did your father have to depend on a lot of credit too with being higher up on the chain there. Was he doing a lot of business on credit?
CC: No, that type business was done with bank. The bank extended him a line of credit to buy so many bales of cotton. He could only have so many bales of cotton on hand at one time. Just for explanation purposes I would say a thousand bales. He could not go over that line of credit or the bank would cut him off. When the farmer came to actually sell the crop, either one bale or the whole crop. The farmer was paid in cash, well not in cash, but by a check to a farmer. The farmer would get all of him money at that one time.
CB: Tell me what do you remember about the delta growing up in the 1920’s and the 1930’s? What are some of the things you remember about the delta during those years?
CC: Well when I became aware of anything in the delta, I would say would be in the middle thirties. The delta had not changed hardly any since it was opened up. It was made up of fairly large cotton plantations. That was the only crop that was being grown. There was a little corn grown to feed the mules. Each family had a plot for their gardens. They were pretty much self-sufficient. All the little towns such as: Cleveland, Merigold, Shaw, and Shelby were all the same. By the middle thirties and before then when I could remember nobody came to town except on Saturday night. The rest of the time they worked in the fields. Saturday nights, my earliest remembrance, there was a great huge number of people, wagons, mules, and everything being clogged up. It was not a great number of cars, but there were a few cars. Everybody came to town at the same time to do their shopping, and whatever they were going to do. A lot of white folks and blacks came to town in mules and wagons. Each town was the same in every time. The Jews had the clothing stores. I just saw a commentary on the other night on the History of the Delta Jews.
CB: I saw that. I was great program.
CC: Yeah, it was very interesting. It was exactly true. Each town the Jews had clothing stores who catered to both white and black. The Chinese had the food stores who catered only to blacks. They lived in the back of their stores. That went on well after World War II. The Chinese were not allowed to go to the public schools. Being the industrious people they were and are they formed their own school here in Cleveland, The Baptist Chinese School. The Building is still here.
CB: That is like a third school. They could not go to the black school or the white school, so they formed their own school.
CC: That is correct. They were not allowed to go to any schools. So they knew the value of education. So they created their own schools, and of course they were very successful. Like the Jews you saw that. Their children were hardworking, and education was important to them. I grew up with a lot of them. Practically none of them came back to the Delta. They are all off as doctors, lawyer, and very successful professional people somewhere else. Same thing happened to the Chinese. Their children were honorable to the Chinese stores anymore. They totally left back in the fifties it seems like. The Chinese chose to be pharmacists, and not only a great large percent, eighty percent or more, went to Ole Miss and are Pharmacists throughout our state now. They are very productive people. Later on we will talk about how I was sheriff of the county for four years, and never ever did I have any law enforcement contact with any of the Chinese. They just did not ever get into any trouble.
CB: Well that is nice to have. You appreciated, I am sure.
CC: Back to the growing up days in the delta. That was the structure of the town. You had a few people in the town who had some degree of wealth at that time, but not many. The plantation owners by those days’ standards lived a pretty good life. We also had I can remember blacksmiths. We had blacksmiths for the horses and mules. They were pretty important people.
CB: I guess they were kind of declining by the thirties and the forties.
CC: They were declining. Usually they turned their blacksmith’s shops into machine shops. They stayed around. Of course the huge implement companies came in throughout the delta. Here in Cleveland we have always had the largest individually owned John Deer Implement Company in the world. It still is. Being heavily agriculture though we had an influx of all them the implement companies. If you want to go into the social life of those days, I went to a YMCA camp in Arkansas called Camp Caraway when I was very young. That way I had the opportunity to meet young boys from all over the delta because they were all there. Of course I enjoyed that association. To the teenage social life each town even as small as Benoit and Gunnison and the larger town had at least one dance per year. Sometimes they would have one at Christmas, and sometimes they would have one in the summer time always with a dance mat. I was invited and other people were invited so that way we came to know each other all in the delta.
CB: So you go to the ones in different towns. So if you lived in Cleveland you would go to the one in Gunnison whenever they would have one.
CC: In Clarksdale, Greenville, Greenwood, Gunnison, Duncan, Benoit, and Leland. Each time the mothers of the girls have a dance. Of course everybody was in formal dresses. So the early on in life in the delta we knew each other throughout. It has been that way ever since. We still know each other. I don’t think anything about driving to Greenwood to have dinner with some friends. I drove to Leland last night to have dinner with some friends. That is just part of our way of life.
CB: That is interesting. That is very interesting. You mentioned you know the Jewish people and the Chinese people leaving that a lot of them have left the delta. Of course there was in the thirties and the forties there were when you were growing up there were a lot of people in general just black people and white people also leaving the delta.
CC: No They did not start leaving till, well the blacks didn’t start leaving till probably during World War II. Nobody left till then.
CB: So it was a little later.
CC: The great movement didn’t start till the late forties.
CB: I guess that had to do with the decline of the cotton industry.
CC: No it had to do with the implementation of growing cotton. About that time tractors came along. Different ways to harvest the cotton, the cotton picker came along. That is when it really all the blacks left, and all of the chemicals. We had one family for every twenty acres. I don’t expect they had four families per two thousand acres anymore.
CB: Machines and chemicals took over.
CC: Yeah, the Jews and the Chinese got the signal about the same time to get out. The rest of us didn’t know it.
CB: Well let me ask you about of course when people think about the delta they think it has this very large black population. What was race relation like? I know it is obliviously different than it is today. How would you describe that looking back?
CC: Race relations were wonderful from my standpoint. Everybody both black and white knew exactly what their place was, and nobody ever got out of their place. We all understood. The blacks understood. The whites understood. There was a segregated system that was no problem. I say that from a plantation owner standpoint. I say that from a white heritage. You might find it different, but as far as arguments or any kind of contest or anything that would be problems we didn’t have.
CB: Can you tell me a little about your early education growing up. I guess you were in Cleveland.
CC: I went to school in Cleveland, and I graduated from Cleveland High School.
CB: What were the schools like in Cleveland?
CC: All right we knew they were fine. Well I did go to Coving Military Academy, which is a fine military academy in Indiana. I went there for two summers. As far as the public schools here were concerned we had Cleveland High School which was totally white. Then we had I don’t know what they called it
CC: Eastside it was totally black. I am sure as you look back and we know things now there was not enough emphasis particularly on the black schools for education. In fact we didn’t have in the white schools a lot of them they would let the schools out. We did go to school the same time like we do now. When it came time to pick cotton white school turned out.
CB: That was just because it was an agriculture society.
CC: That is correct.
CB: It was organized around agriculture.
CC: That was it, but as far as my school here in Cleveland High School I think it was a normal average school. I got what I could consider a normal average education. I never considered myself bright. I still don’t consider myself bright. My education for the times we lived in was certainly adequate. We had all of the sports. I played football. I lettered in football and tennis, track, and I feel like I am lacking something else.
CB: That is enough to keep you busy.
CC: It sure was. We had a band. It was a pretty good band. I really look with disdain upon myself as being a member of the band. My mother insisted that I be a member of the band.
CB: That must have been hard to be in the band and be on the football team.
CC: Well it was so I quit that my last two years.
CB: So you would have graduated from high school in what about?
CB: World War II had already started.
CC: Okay I was just seventeen, and in my mind I was ready to go to the army then. I always consider myself a patriot, and I still do. My family put me; I told you that my father did business up in the Carolinas. My family took me to Memphis the summer soon as I graduated from high school. They put me on a train, and they took me to a town I never heard of called Charlotte, NC. When I got there one of my daddy’s friends picked me up and went about twenty miles up north there was a college called Davidson College. There I was a student at Davidson. That is the way we did things in my family. I was crazy about it. I really liked.
CB: Did you have any idea what you wanted to do with your life?
CC: Oh no, never. All I knew I wanted to go into the Army.
CB: Were a lot of your friends like that to? They were itching to get in.
CC: Oh yeah, everybody was like that. The war was more than begun. The Navy did take people at seventeen. A lot of my friends went right on in and enlisted in the Navy. The Army would take you until you were eighteen. So anyway I stayed at Davidson, and I had a real fine experience there. It was a hard school. We studied all week. We really studied. Then on the weekend we would go to Charlotte and raise as much revel as we possibly could. We would get back for church on Sunday night because that was a credit. Soon as I was eighteen, I came back. In fact I did not go back to school. I joined the Army soon after that. I was gone for nearly three and half years.
CB: You were overseas the whole time?
CC: No, no I fooled around here in the states for a long time. I went in as a private in the infantry. I got to be a corporal, which is the first thing anything like that had ever happened to me where I was a leader of anything. Then I got to be what they called an active Sargent. That from a power standpoint that is near God as a man would ever want to be. If you were in the Army you would know what I am talking about. Then I went to Officer’s Training School and became an officer. I became an officer, second lieutenant, when I was nineteen. Then I did some more training here in the states. I don’t remember the time, but it was about three months before the war ended that I was sent to California to go overseas. Something kind of interesting this other officer and myself were in the Saint Francis hotel waiting to go in San Francisco. If you have ever been there it is a fine hotel. We picked up these two women. We were really doing good. They said well let’s go to the top of the mark. Well that sounded like a good idea to me. I have never been to the top of the mark. So we all went to the top of the mark. I was the only one that was not twenty-one. I was twenty. Of course everyone else got in, and they left me outside. Anyway I went on overseas, and of course we were there to invade Japan. It would have been a by far the bloodiest battle that has been fought anywhere. The Philippine Islands were totally equipped with men and equipment and everything we need to invade Japan.
CB: That is where you were sent?
CC: That is where I was.
CC: As I recall it may have been one hundred twenty-five maybe one hundred fifty of field hospitals is what they called them. They were all circling around Manila. They were totally staffed ready to go with nobody in them. They were going to tack care of the wounded coming back. That was just one of them. The war ended after we dropped the bomb, and I stayed over there nearly a year.
CB: Were you in Japan then?
CC: No, I didn’t go to Japan. I stayed right there in the Philippines. Then I came back, and I was discharged. I enrolled in Ole Miss.
CB: Before I go there let me just back up just a minute I kind of forgot to ask you this, and now I thought about it when you were talking about World War II. I wanted to ask you what effect did World War II have on the delta? Even before that what about the Great Depression how did that effect the delta area?
CC: Well of course I was young at that time.
CB: You were young. I know.
CC: There was no money. So it had a great effect. That was the part I was talking about there was so much credit business was done. The only time there was ever any money was when the cotton was picked. So there wasn’t any money at all. So it had a great affect, and the price of cotton got down to about ten cents a pound. Nobody had anything. So there wasn’t anybody worried about what the other folks were wearing.
CB: Everyone was in the same boat.
CC: Everybody was doing the same thing, white and black.
CB: Did it help when, I know F. D. R. he had that triple aid program was to help the cotton industry. Did that help a lot of the cotton farmers?
CC: I am sure it did. I was not old enough to remember.
CB: You were a little bit too young to remember.
CC: I am sure it did though.
CB: When you came back did you have any sense the war had any affect on changing things in the delta?
CC: The war had a great impact on me.
CC: I will tell you about that. I had gone from eighteen years to nearly twenty-two. It had a great maturing affect on me. It also made me know that I had some leadership ability. So it had a great affect on me. Now what is your question?
CB: Well that is fine. Let me just ask follow up to that. Was that partly because you had seen the world? Is that what has a big impact on you?
CC: No, it was because the army had disciplined me so and made me know how to do things right. It made me know how to lead men. See I was a platoon leader and a company commander. When you get in those responsible positions it has great responsibility. You are like the father to all of them. You have to make sure they do right, and everything goes right. Of course I had never done anything like that before.
CB: So you went from private to first lieutenant over the course of the war?
CC: I did. I really was a Company Commander. If I would have stayed in Fort Sam, Houston another two weeks I would have automatically became a captain. I was foolish enough that I wanted to go home.
CB: And you went to Ole Miss when you came back.
CC: That is right.
CB: I guess there was a lot of veterans doing the same thing. They were going to college when they got back.
CC: Everybody there it looked like. All of us were the same. Everybody got back not at the same time, but a huge number of men were discharged in the late summer of 1946. Under the G. I. Bill everybody had an opportunity to go to college. Everybody did.
CB: Did you know then what you wanted to do? You didn’t know when you were seventeen. Had you figured out a little more about what you wanted to do?
CC: Yes I did. By then I had thought I would go to college. Then come back and go into business with my father in the cotton business. I was focused on that. So all I was focused on at Ole Miss was getting a business degree. That had little to do with going into the cotton business. By then my father was very successful cotton merchant. Well I didn’t get my degree. That is another story to. I left with three hours that I was going to many times check out the course and do it by correspondence. I would have stayed another semester for that one course.
CC: I left Ole Miss in the summer of ’48 with the full intention of always taking that those three hours with correspondence. I came back to finish that part. Sometimes in the middle sixties, ’64, I became president of the Alumni Association of Ole Miss. My children were coming along fix in to go to college. I was the only member of family who did not have a college degree. The head of the business schools was over here one time, and he practically well he didn’t say it. If I just come over there he would arrange for me to get a degree some kind of way so I did. All he did was take me from his office to where I checked out the course to complete and go. About that time I was flying to Hong Kong, and it was a long trip down there, twenty-one hours out and twenty-one hours back. I did all my work in the airplane. My hand came back and dictated my secretary, and I sent it in. I graduated at Ole Miss in the Class of ’65. By that time I was sheriff of this county too. So it was kind of unique. Somebody my age is graduating in the Class of ’65.
CB: That is great. What was the social life like at Ole Miss there in the late forties with all these returning veterans and everything? What was that like?
CC: Okay it was really remembered well. Under the G. I. Bill, as a single person, I don’t know what a married. Of course they paid for everything. I believe we had a stipend of an hundred dollars a month. That is the most money that any of us had ever seen in our lives. I was a member of Phi Delta Theta Fraternity where poker gaming went on, all day and all night. We went to the Kentucky Derby. We went out to supper somewhere every night. So the G. I. Bill had a great affect on all of us, not only the education part but also the social part. I never had a hundred dollars before to just to what ever I wanted to do with it. I didn’t throw it away. I just betted on whatever I wanted to. In fact I never had anything since. So we had a great social life. Ole Miss dropped down, that I have been told where there were no men on the campus during the war. It was just women. All the athletics were suspended. So the women were glad to see us. Those times we didn’t go home every weekend. We weren’t in cars much. So there was dances and various things like that. It was a lot to do.
CB: Did you play sports there? I know you played in high school.
CC: No I did not. We had intrafraternity stuff. I did that. I was a great in participating in attending the Ole Miss football games.
CB: I heard they had a pretty good team back then didn’t they?
CC: Yeah. It began.
CB: It was the beginnings.
CC: In ’46 was a pretty sorry team. Han Vault came in ’47, and he took the same team and won the conference. We have been winning ever since.
CB: After you graduated, well after you almost graduated from Ole Miss you came back and started working for your father? Is that right?
CC: I did. See that would have been the fall of ’48 and ’49. We went bankrupt in ’50.
CB: How did that happen?
CC: Well we just made some bad decision in the market. Sold a grade of cotton that was not available yet. You have to sell cotton in the future.
CC: In other words it won’t be delivered for six or eight months. It won’t be picked. So you sell cotton on certain grades. We had to deliver a much higher grade cotton than we sold. It cost a lot more money in doing that, and it broke us. We got out of the cotton business.
CB: Was that a pretty typical thing for people in your father’s line of work? Did that happen often?
CC: Everybody I know in the cotton business has been broke in one time or another. These now are more stable. Back in those days everyday yeah it wasn’t unusual at all.
CB: So what did he do? Did he kind of set up to start again?
CC: He didn’t do anything. He more or less retired. We had some land. Which I farmed for that period of time until 1965, I still own the land. I rented it out to substantial farmers, and I have been very happy with that ever since. I started an Insurance business about 1959, and I have been reasonably successful in the Insurance business.
CB: So you had to farm. Were you actively farming, or were you basically renting it out to other farmers?
CC: No I actually farmed it till the middle of the time I became sheriff that was about ’65.
CB: How big of a farm would this big be?
CC: Well at one time our total operation was about two thousand acres. I probably owned about eighteen hundred acres, but I rented some of that from other people.
CB: So you were farming at the time all those changes you talked about earlier was starting to take place.
CC: That is correct.
CB: Well you talked about when you found out in World War II that you had some leadership skills. How did you think you might put those to use back in the states? You know you said you became aware of that during World War II.
CC: Well it gave me confidence to know I could do something. I really didn’t do anything until I came back I reckon in the middle fifties. I became active in civic work around here. I have been president and a chairman of everything you can possibly think of.
CB: So you put it to use right away? Talking about getting involved with.
CC: I reckon I did. Yeah, I did. I get so tired when people introduce me for a speech or something, and they go over a list this long of past. I think to myself I have got to do something about that resume`, and I am going to.
CB: Well I know you became sheriff in ’64, but have you thought before then about going into politics?
CC: This tale is true. I don’t know how much I can put down. I ran in ’59.
CB: Oh okay.
CC: There were no black votes in the county except the city of Mount Bayou, which was all black.
CB: All black people.
CC: There was five or six of us running. Our senior in the segregation thing was really going strong by then. Our senior political person called all the cannidates into the courthouse for everything. Everybody agreed that if they were elected by the Mount Bayou vote they would not take office. That is beyond anybody’s comprehensive now.
CB: You mean that was the difference of the election?
CB: How many voters would that have been in Mount Bayou? Do you have any recollection of that?
CC: Yeah I remember. I got about sixty votes, and my opponent got about ten.
CB: So they were essentially saying they were going to throw those out?
CC: That is right. I won the first primary by a substantial number of votes. It was close to five hundred votes, and my opponent was a man named Jewel Pace who was a farmer here. He was a good fellow. His brother was Senator Eastland’s Chief of Staff. A man named Courtney Pace. Courtney Pace and Senator Eastland had gotten all of the immigration stuff to allow Chinese to move into Bolivar County and all over the place else. We had about three or four hundred votes in the county. I had gotten most of them in the first primary. The second primary, the brother of my opponent came down, and it didn’t take him long to change all the votes around. He was the one who got them here. I lost the election by eight or ten votes. I carried Mount Bayou by sixty votes.
CB: But you could not count those.
CC: That is right. We didn’t count them. So I never said a word. I didn’t ask for a recount. I didn’t do anything. Mr. Pace took office. I ran the next four years, and I beat four or five folks.
CB: With the issue of black votes, was that an issue then? Not in ’63
CC: It didn’t come up. Still I don’t remember if we had any black votes then. That still was not an issue then. We didn’t do that.
CB: That campaign was not as nearly as tough as that ’59 campaign?
CC: No, I won quite heavily.
CB: Why did you decide to go for sheriff? What was the thing about? Why become sheriff?
CC: Okay, all of my growing up days the political structure of our county, since reconstruction really, had been run by our big planters. Our big planters were all on the board of supervisors. The sheriffs that all preceded me were all planters. It was something that sounded good to me. In addition to that the sheriff of Bolivar County was probably the second highest paid political person in the state.
CC: It was sheriff and tax collector. Harrison County and Hinds County was bigger, but I doubt if any other was. I don’t remember what the income was.
CB: So sheriffs at that time were still tax collectors?
CC: It didn’t cost the county any money, not a penny. The sheriff paid for all the papers and the deputies and the cars and everything. So there was a monetary incentive also. I was the last of what you would call the plantation sheriffs. We were not professional law enforcement officers. We didn’t have much law. The people didn’t want much law. So we suited everybody. While I was president of the sheriff association two of the four years I was a sheriff I was very instrumental in getting the law passed where the sheriff could succeed themselves. Which I thought was the right thing to do. Not for myself, but for people that were after me. Soon after that, probably the next term you had professional law enforcement people who became sheriffs. They had to meet standards. Which is the way it ought to be. It is a lot more expensive though.
CB: They are not tax collectors anymore?
CC: No they are not tax collectors. They divide their officers.
CB: Your statement was very interesting that there was not much law and the people didn’t want much law. Could you expand on that?
CC: Oh yes I can. We were still under the plantation system, and historically we would never send a deputy on a man’s plantation without going to the boss man many, many times. When we wanted somebody that had done something we would just call the plantation owner and tell him to bring the man in.
CB: So the plantation owner is really where kind of the law enforcement officer for their plantations.
CC: Well each plantation back in those days consider themselves a world of their home. They had their own groceries. They had everything. A lot of them the bigger ones had their own doctors.
CB: Did some of them have schools?
CC: Some of them did. Yeah they did. So we didn’t have law enforcement. We have always had whiskey. Anything that touches the water in Mississippi if you are a Mississippian. I don’t know whether you were a Mississippian.
CB: I am.
CC: Okay, well anything that touches the water, the coast and the river we all had whiskey and some from of gambling. It was there when I came, and it was there when I left. Bolivar County is different from a lot of other counties. The only, I know I never took anybody’s money from anybody, I never had any offers. I never did talk to them about. We had two wholesale whiskey houses here. That William Winter who was tax collector would come in each month and get whatever his part was for the date.
CB: The Black Market Tax is what they called it.
CC: That is what it was. Rosedale had there whiskey store which was charged. They had a couple. Several hundred a month for their hospital. As far as I know it never was anything been payed in Bolivar County to anybody. We had a few little gambling houses that everybody knew that they were there. They never ever caused any problems.
CB: So as long as they didn’t cause any problems there was no reason to bother them.
CC: That is right. My attitude is that everybody needs to be somewhere.
CB: I like that. That is good. Well let me ask you something else. Of course you were sheriff at a time it was pretty hot times racially with the civil rights movement, and you are in this law enforcement position. Did you have any situations that arose dealing with civil rights while you were sheriff?
CC: Okay, I took office in January. About in March I was informed that we were soon going to have about a hundred or more whites coming into Bolivar County. They were young white students from the north. They were training at a little college in Kentucky called Boreha. They did train there. We didn’t know what to expect. We didn’t have many. We had two deputies here and one in Rosedale. All of these towns had Marshals that deputized all of them. They really didn’t know anything. So I put out a call for volunteers to from an auxiliary. Luckiest thing that ever did happen the men that answered the call we had about thirty-eight members. They were the mechanics, plumbers, the tradesman, and they were all veterans. My deputy and I would immediately started training. We had uniforms, shotguns, gas masks, helmets, and everything.
CB: You all were ready.
CC: We had everything. They trained weekly. They were really disciplined. We were really lucky because those same type men if they had not joined this unit they could have joined the Klan just as easy. They are going to join something. So they came. The students came. They did all sort of stuff at the courthouse. As soon as they broke the law I was there everyday. As soon as they broke the law we immediately arrested them. I could go on for hours about all of this, but they came there to break the law.
CB: They wanted to be arrested.
CC: They wanted to be arrested, yeah. We would fill up the jail. We would fill up. We had two jails one in Cleveland and one in Rosedale. One instance we had so many we had to get a bus and bus them over to Parchman. It was the same scenario. Two of the more famous people we arrested and put in jail, one of them was the mother of the governor of Massachusetts. Her name was Ms. Peabody. Another was Stokely Carmicheal. Martin Luther King was here one night, and he spoke in a church. All I ever tried to do was to keep these folks alive. That was my main job. Of course these thing could have happened in the Philadelphia, it could happen everywhere. Bobby Kennedy was here. I excorted him in the county, and I excorted him out of the county. I turned him over to the Cohoma County folks. We had two things happen that most people in Bolivar County don’t know this. The newspaper editor and I had an agreement for him not to print all of this stuff in the paper. So nothing ever got in the paper. At that time we thought that was the best way to do it, and we still think that is the best way to do it. The associated press, a man named Andy Reese from Jackson, would call me. He would say, “Well I heard you had something.” I would say, “No that is not right because there is nothing.” But we spent four years of doing this. The blacks didn’t know what to do with them. They didn’t want them.
CB: Were there any local
CC: Had one man named Amzie Moore. Amzie and I became quite good friends through the whole deal. Then we opened up communication with the blacks early on in this period. Some of the black leaders I can not recall their names. We would have meetings with them. They didn’t know what to do with them all of these young white folk. They wanted them out just like we did. We also began having. That is when the blacks began to registering to vote. That went on all during the four years. We know where we are now. I remember any. Well we didn’t have any riots or anything like that. The reason we didn’t was because those auxiliary policeman was so well armed and so welled trained we wouldn’t let anything happen. They couldn’t get started.
CB: You said one thing you were trying to do was to keep those people alive.
CC: That was the main thing I wanted to do.
CB: Was you mentioned the Klan was there an active Klan here? Were there people here?
CC: Okay yes. Early in my four years there was a lot of activity in the south in the county. It was born in Washington County. It was papers going out, and crosses being and pamphlets you know. Crosses in places. Well the F. B. I. men came in one day and said, “Do you know the leader of the Klan is in your county?” I said, “No I don’t.” He told me. The man was a good friend of mine. He was an old country preacher. I call him in. I know you are the leader of the Klan, and if I can prepare any evidence to put you in jail. I am going to put you in this jail. He said, “You don’t believe that Charlie or mean that do you?” Well I said, “I certainly do.” From that day on I never had any Klan activity. My whole focus as sheriff was to keep these outsiders alive. Get them in the county and get them alive. The largest number of our people were killed just like it did in Philadelphia. That is the feeling everybody had. Paul Johnson was our governor. Of course he ran on a segregated ticket, but he never has received the credit for what he did. Anytime he could get any sheriffs together as many as three he would fly where ever we were to tell us to take it. To take what they put out. Do not resort to violence. If they spit in your face just stand there. They did a lot of that. If he hadn’t provided that kind of council to us we would have certainly been occupied by the United States Army.
CB: It would have been a lot more violence.
CC: Oh a whole lot more. Paul Johnson did that.
CB: Well let me ask you one other thing about the civil rights that kind of related it. I know that in the delta there was this organization called the Citizen’s Council that started back in the fifties. What do you remember about that? Was it pretty active in Bolivar County? I know it started in Indianola I guess.
CC: I think the Citizen’s Council was active. It may have been all of the state. It was active all in the delta. The purpose of it was to detour segregation. It didn’t say that. The most prominent people in each town and county were part of it. It was not a violent organization.
CB: It was supposedly supposed to be an alternative to the Klan?
CC: Oh no it wasn’t anything like the Klan at all. It was church people. As I remember say I was a banker, and some particular white or black was doing something that we didn’t think was right. Through business he would put pressures on him to quit. Everything in the world was done to try to run Harding Carter out of Greenville. Everything anybody could dream of that type thing. It wasn’t anything like the Klan.
CB: It was more in using economic persuasion.
CC: That is a better word economic persuasion.
Tape 2 of 2
CC: I campaigned for sheriff. I had a golfer too. So for three years I did not go to the country club nor play golf. That is how important for me to win. I could literally call everybody in the county by their first name. I could do that. In the legislative races, Senator Alexander he is a friend of mine. He was an important political person. About eight years or twelve years ago he and himself ran against me. They did a lot of work. They spent a lot of money. It wasn’t a very close race. I won about a thousand votes, but I didn’t know that.
CB: How has that changed over the years campaigning? You have been at that now since the sixties. You were involved in political campaign.
CC: Well in the beginning if you had offered a person any money at all you would had been assaulted and whipped. Over the years that has changed dramatically so the campaigning style in the delta has changed from not spending any money on individuals to a great deal being spent.
CB: Would that have to do with needing T. V. advertisement or that kind of thing?
CC: No it means it has more to do with giving direct donations to treasuries, and direct money to what you hope are political leaders that they pass on to other folks.
CB: Okay why did that change? You have any idea?
CC: Well you have a large population voting now. They are very important.
CB: So you are saying you need money to grease that support.
CC: Oh yes. All the time I was head of a black district. Everybody does it. It is just not, everybody has to.
CB: Well I am sure. It sounds like it.
CC: You got to know where to put the money and hope you put it in the right place. It has to be a fairly continuously thing.
CB: That is interesting. It doesn’t surprise me that much, but it might surprise people sitting in a political science class. They might not think how things should operate. When you came to the legislature in 1972 of course you were a new member. How well did you know how things operate there? How did you ?
CC: I did not know. Even though I had been around it some. I didn’t know anything. It takes a long time. It takes eight years to find your desk. You may not know where the bathroom is by then.
CB: How do you learn those things?
CC: Just through being there. John Pierson who is the Senator’s nephew took me under his wing. John Junking was Speaker of the House from Natchez. Each political body like the house there is a group of men who run it. At that time John Junking, John Pierson, Kenneth Williams, and Horace Hart people like that was running the house. They took me under their wing. I quickly put on Appropriation Committee.
CB: Your first time?
CC: Yeah my first time. You still didn’t know anything. You just wander where the next committee meeting is. You wander around. When you get there you don’t know what they are doing. It takes us a long time to understand the process. I learn something everyday about it. I reckon the point I am making is that I was with the “in group”, and I have always been with the “in group” up till right now.
CB: I guess over the years, and maybe this isn’t so much there was always this perception especially delta legislature had a lot of power in the state legislator.
CC: I think that is true. The reason that is because the delta has always sent their legislators back.
CC: Seniority really doesn’t, we don’t do anything about seniority.
CC: Like the Congress does. All we do about seniority is I get to pick my seat and my parking place. That is all.
CB: Like committee assignments?
CB: That is totally to the discretion of the Speaker and the leaders.
CC: That is it exactly. The delta has always had good men offer themselves, and they stay. The leadership of the Junking who was the Sillers group well the Sillers died. Well Junking was his appropriation chairman. All of the others folks I am telling you about they were part of that group.
CB: So when Sillers left in ’66, it just went over to
CC: The Junking group took over.
CB: So you have been on appropriation ever since you had been there. How accorded is that committee in terms of the operation of the House? Is that the key committee?
CC: Yes, it is. All members want to be on the appropriation committee. One of the reasons is because any time you have the money, anybody wants to be near the money. The way I operate in it now, and I have done for twelve years. Is I have a strong sub-committee chairman. A sub-committee chairman in appropriation is as strong or considered as strong as a chairman in something else. I make them stronger on purpose, because if they are strong then they are loyal to me.
CB: How many are these sub-committees?
CC: They know I can remove them overnight.
CB: Okay, how many of these sub-committees are there?
CC: Well I suspect we have about eight or ten. All of them are serve at my will and pleasure, so I have a fairly loyal group. Take any bill that has any money in it or any hint of money whether it is an education bill or whether a public health or an agriculture bill they are assigned to that first name committee. If it has any hint of money it has to come back through the appropriation committee.
CB: So essentially everything goes through appropriation committee.
CC: That is right.
CB: Very little that doesn’t deal with money.
CC: So at some time or another everybody knows they have to deal with me. This is just the way our system works.
CB: I am going to ask you some general questions, and I might ask you some more specific about specific terms. What about, it seems to me in Mississippi that the legislator is fairly strong compared to the executive branch the governor is. Do you think that is true? Certainly people perceive that.
CC: Well it is true, and it didn’t happen by accident. After reconstruction in the Constitution of 1890 when the state had gone through all the stuff it went through. The men in control of the Constitution of 1890 created the constitution for a weak from of government and a strong legislator. We have never had constitutional convention since then, and we don’t intend to have one.
CB: That is an issue that comes up from time to time.
CC: Well it does. J. P. Coleman did his best to get us to have one. For instance, my type doesn’t want to do it. I like the strong legislator. I can do my job even if we didn’t have a governor at all. So I sure don’t want anybody over there with any great strength. To give an example, the governor offers a budget. He prepares a budget by law. That has just started about six or seven years ago. Governor Fordice continually talked in the paper that I read where we would just trashed his budget. Which we didn’t do it. We would look at, but we didn’t trash it. So this last year I called my staff okay here it goes I want you all to watch it. We have our own budget committee, and we have our own staff. We prepare our own budgets. To answer you question the governor’s office is weak by the constitution, but governors with there own bully pit can do a lot if they choose to.
CB: Within the legislator you said there is kind of leadership group that determines a lot. I know that you all are meeting now before the session begin. Does a lot of the work of the legislature get done even before the session begins?
CC: Yes, five members out of the Senate and five members out of the House are the Budget Committee. We prepare the budget. We present that to the legislature. It is like a Bible. They don’t change it much. They can, but they don’t change it much.
CB: That makes those ten folks really very powerful then?
CC: That is correct. We are really serious about it. We make in depth. We are large staff, and we know what we are doing. We know how much money we have. We scrutinize and sometimes abuse department heads and things like that.
CB: Earlier you also mentioned reapportionate. I guess that is something that comes up in the legislature every ten. I guess you will be dealing with that again.
CC: We will.
CB: Fairly soon if it is every ten years. How does that operate? That must be a fairly contentious issue when that comes up.
CC: Well in the last time particularly the justice department pretty well told us what we had to do. We are still under the voting rights acts of 1965. Of course when we first started we tried to do it the way it ought to be done. Well of course it never proved anything. It just cost us money. It was a futile effort. So they pretty well drew it maybe the same way this time.
CB: You just have to take what they hand you.
CC: Well they don’t well it is just futile to swim and never win. So it is not a pleasant thing.
CB: I guess over the years too there obviously there has been a lot more black members in the legislature.
CC: Oh yeah we have thirty-seven.
CB: There is a black caucus. What has been the impact of kind of having them as a separate kind of a group that is pushing certain things? Has that changed the legislature over the years the growing strength of that black caucus?
CC: Well we certainly recognize it. Some of them are very good friends of ours. We work well with them. We discourage caucuses. We do not have democratic caucuses nor do we have a republican caucus.
CB: But they have an actually caucus.
CC: They have a caucus. One day next week their present chairman is going to come in the budget committee and go into a talk to us. I don’t know what he is going to say, but it is things for blacks. We do a lot of things for blacks. We do I don’t know we are fix in to do a Civil War trail that I am really interested in. We are going to do it from Corinth, Shyloh, all the way down to northeast Mississippi. Come into Jackson and Raymond, Vicksburg and Port Gibson. It is going to be a great tourist attraction. Well the blacks want something similar. I got head of our Archives looking up things we can do for them. It is something we are going to do up in Mount Bayou. We are going to find something.
CB: Probably will be good tourism too. I can see both.
CC: It will be. It will be. That type thing. So yes they do have an impact.
CB: Well let me ask you about some of the governors that you have served under when you were in the legislator? All right when you first come in it was William Waller. Of course he was a lot of different than that preceded him, John Bell Williams. I remember reading something that he said about the legislature. He said the legislature. I guess he was a progressive governor, and that is how he perceived himself. He said the legislature was too provential to pass his progressive package of legislature. I guess he was kind of frustrated I guess with it. Do you remember anything about that? I know you were just a beginning member, but I am sure that did not go over too well in the legislator to be called prevential.
CC: Well he, I liked him. I knew him, and I had some contact with him. He came over to the leadership, which I was not one of them. It was kind of like a bull in a China shop. So I don’t think they had a good time. The only governor that I have ever heard that the legislator or the “in members of the legislator” say really enjoyed working with and fooling with is Ross Barnett. They all liked him.
CB: Really. That is interesting.
CC: But ever since then I don’t have any contact with that Governor Fordice. I have been in his office twice in eight years, and he has been in my office once. I don’t need him for anything. If he wants to talk to me, he can come and talk to me. I just don’t have any need.
CB: And I guess there was a view during the time you were in the legislator to try to decrease some of the power of the legislator because it used to be did not legislators serve on boards.
CC: It did.
CB: That was ended right?
CC: That is right.
CB: There was a
CC: A threat
CB: Was that a good policy to have legislators also serve on state board?
CC: I am such a creature of the legislator that I am overprotective. Though even now we will come back to that. Now those same boards that the legislator was removed from the department heads have requested, and in most of them we have one member of the House and one member of the Senate as a non-voting members because they were needed.
CB: Because they had the information and things they needed.
CC: Yes, and that has came from the agencies.
CB: That is interesting.
CC: So we are back.
CB: Your back. Not voting yet, but
CC: We are back not voting. I have forgot who sued us. I believe it was Alain.
CB: It was when he was attorney general.
CC: Yeah your right.
CB: I guess he was Winter’s attorney general.
CC: It was an executive power thing.
CB: Of course then he became governor. I am sure that didn’t make him to popular that he had.
CC: Yeah, I had more contact with him. I reckon more than any other. Probably because anybody that wanted to walk in his office wide open at all times he wasn’t doing anything but just sitting there. About that time I began smoking cigars. Charlie Deaton was his Chief of Staff. He and Herman Glazer with a little office right off the Governor’s office. On my way to my office, I would go by Charlie Deaton’s office to bum a cigar. Well he and the governor, Alain, and Herman would be back there doing something. So I saw a lot of him while I was getting my cigars. He was easy to do business with. He was just easy to work with.
CB: I know probably one of the biggest pieces of legislator maybe early on when you were in the legislator. Well you had been there ten years was Governor Winters Education Reform Act. Do you see that as a fairly significant piece of legislator?
CC: Oh I do. Oh he worked his heart out for that too. I was not a significant player. I voted for it all through it, but I didn’t realize the impact it was going to have. I have realized, until every person in this state gets a proper education we are not going to change anything. So it is going to take several generations. We are going to do something different from what we are doing now, and we are going to do more than we are doing. I didn’t know all that stuff then, but I do now.
CB: I guess later education when they ran into a lot of trouble that was Ray Mabus’s Best Program, which he
CC: Well he didn’t have any way to fund it. He pulled things out of the sky. Seriously he would come into the Budget Commission and tell us that he had funded that program on the lottery. We would say what lottery governor. We never passed a lottery. He would say, “On the lottery we are going to pass.” He would do stuff like that all of the time. So that was never anything serious. You just can’t pull money out of the sky. That is what he was doing.
CB: You all didn’t pass a lottery, but you did pass the Riverboat gambling.
CC: Yeah, but by that time it wasn’t the same thing at all.
CB: Some people suggested later that was kind of sneaked in. I guess. You know that is was the gambling in Mississippi.
CC: Okay it is the greatest accident that ever happened. Bob Darien over in the Senate passed a bill that had something to do with the riverboat coming into Natchez. Then somebody tacked on something about a cruise boat on the coast. It came over to the House. It went to the Ways and Means Committee. Sonny Marith was chairman, and Charlie Williams and several of them worked on it. They had the vision to get the Nevada Gaming commission to come to Mississippi, and they did. They were there a long time, a good month helping our folks. Nobody even cared about the lottery nobody but Mr. Paul Jones. He was a Baptist preacher. He is a lobbyist. What the House membership did is virtually copy the Nevada Gaming Law. Minus the mistakes they had made that they had told us about, and they fit it to the river counties, the water counties. So that came to the floor of the House. I don’t recall a vote of pass by, a small amount. That bill then went over to the Senate. Then whoever is chairman over there took it up. They could cut a House amendment. They never ever voted on it. They just said okay. Then it went to the Governor, and it passed. Not one living person in the state or in the world ever dreamed what was going to happen. It was just a miracle. It was luck.
CB: Has it made it easier in appropriation because you have more money to work with?
CC: Three hundred million dollars a year. We have taken that money and put it in education, corrections, human services, mental health, and we have done things that I in our state that was incomprehensible. Something you never dreamed of. We have forty thousand jobs, good jobs. People working directly in the industry. We have countless support things. We have thousand hotel rooms. Thousands of entertainment there is no way to tell how much has helped us. But it was always an accident.
CB: As the appropriation chair I guess I know you have been since ’88. You have been on the committee since ’72. I know over that period of time there was some lean times in Mississippi. What do you do then?
CC: Yeah, what we had to do is always the same. You have to always go where the money is. The money is always in I. H. L. That is our biggest appropriation. We have to go and cut. You can’t go to the Barber Board and get any money.
CB: Not going to save any money there.
CC: No you have to go where the money is. So we start off with I. H. L. and Junior Colleges then several times we had to go to K-12. I introduced a bill eight or ten years ago that would have solved that problem. What we do we know what our revenue is. We don’t appropriate well we always leave two percent as a balance. Two percent is about seventy or eighty million dollars. It varies, or it can be as much as a hundred. So we always have a balance that if during the fiscal year we have a short fall we can go into that balance, and not go back to the agencies or the universities.
CB: It is like our rainy day fund.
CC: Well it is more than rainy day fund. We have a rainy day fund on top of that. We have that balance every year. The rainy day fund is up to nearly three hundred million dollars now. (tape cut off)
CB: Okay I was just going to I know I am kind of jumping around a bit, I was just going to go back education. Of course another education issue that came up was the Ayer’s Case, that higher education lawsuit. Of course you mentioned that higher education is already one of the biggest expenses that the state has. I guess that has put an extra burden on that. What is the
CC: It is a continuing case. I don’t know how long it has been going on. The state has spent millions of dollars in lawyer’s fees. The I. H. L. board, we pretty well followed their lead in that. They take their instructions from Judge Biggers. We are not aggressively. I see where some of our black friends saving these spending. Three hundred million dollars on something, I don’t ever pay attention to that. What we are doing we have when the I. H. L. board tells us that the Judge has told them that certain things, it is time to do certain things. We have done it. We have done it consistently through out the case. There is soon going to be a large amount of money to be spent at Jackson State to do with the Engineering School and one or two other things they have there. What the state would like to do, and we would like to do is bring it to a closure. We want to end it. We are told that the plaintiff’s lawyer I believe his name is Allen Chambers he does not want to end it because he lives off this. He does not want it to ever end. He doesn’t want it to ever end. So that is what we hear, but I am well aware of the Ayer’s case. Each of our universities has a mission. We know what it is, and they know what it is. I want all of them to do well. We will continue to be monitored by the judge, but from the legislator’s stand point we will continue to do whatever is necessary to meet the responsibilities.
CB: I know that must be a tough thing to do. I know when the first ruling came down from the Supreme Court, I know one thing that they said was that Mississippi had too many universities. I guess that would politically that would be almost impossible to think about getting rid of a University in our state. It might make since in educationally, but it doesn’t make much since politically.
CC: No it doesn’t. I never really considered that seriously. With Delta State and Mississippi Valley being as close as they are. I wouldn’t want to see anything happen to any one of them. I immediately took a public stance opposed to the board’s idea.
CB: I think a lot of people did. That was not a very popular idea. Another thing about the time you have been in the legislature, of course after John Junking was the Speaker. Buddy Newman was the Speaker, another delta man. What was your relationship with Speaker Newman?
CC: I read in the papers where I was part of his “inner circle”. I really liked Buddy Newman. He and I were really good friends. I call myself a really good friend of his. If he had a lot of private meetings he can call me about it. I was a committee chairman under him. We saw a lot of each other socially. I admired him a great deal. I thought he made a really good speaker. No political person ever handled their demise any better than he has.
CB: Well let me ask you about that demise. What, in fact I have done an interview with Speaker Newman before so I have heard his side. What happened why was there an attack on his leadership? How did that develop?
CC: Well there were some talented young members of the House who were smart lawyers. Now I am somising this, I wasn’t in on any of this. They weren’t moving ahead as fast as they thought they should move ahead. Then there was a fellow that came along named Cecil Simons who really hated Buddy Newman. He had the ability to deep hate a person, and he did. Some kind of way he became aware of this discontent. He got that group together. Cecil did. These other people they were smart too. They literally formed a Coup. I was not part of that at all.
CB: You were part of the Leadership group?
CC: I was part of the Buddy Newman’s team. I was not part of that group. I never went to a meeting. I read about a meeting. I heard about them. Some of them were friends of mine. I wasn’t part of that. I thought that was really bad. They finally just made it so tough it looked like Buddy wasn’t going to be reelected Speaker nor reelected in his district. It looked so bad. He had the good sense I think to just walk off. He closed it down. He left. He didn’t give anybody the chance to do all the things they wanted to do to him. All of the things that were said about him, about him being a ruthless leader and all that kind of stuff were not true. He was a fine leader. All that happened, and Buddy left. Then the group wanted to elect Tommy Warming as Speaker, but they found him unacceptable. Then they wanted somebody else. Then Tim Ford was the least unacceptable.
CB: Kind of the dark force.
CC: He hadn’t done anything to make anybody mad one way or another. That was it. He had never had done anything one way or another. He hadn’t made anybody mad. These guys finally said, “Maybe we can elect him.”
CB: Weren’t there some new House Rules that were adopted as part of that? That came out of that.
CC: The rules were adopted to get votes.
CB: Explain that? I don’t understand?
CC: Well to get the black vote?
CB: What were these rules. I mean I have been reading about them a little bit.
CC: The rule was the particular party rule was up until then the Speaker had total authority to say who would be on any committee. To get the black votes Tim and his group said okay we will let you be on appropriation and ways and means by seniority by district, by congressional district. So that meant that eventually some black is going to get on the committee. They liked that.
CB: Did they perceive that they were not being appointed to important committees?
CC: They were not appointed. So that picked up well I have forgotten how many votes. It was about thirty votes. That split the whole thing over. There were some other rules. All I had known was that the Speaker could not succeed himself. I mean two terms. Okay whatever all those rules was that they made. Each one of them was made to get a particular segment of votes in the House. We have done away with all of them except the seniority rule. We threw Cecil Simmons out.
CB: It was in the next term that you became the appropriation’s chair right in ’88?
CC: When Tim Ford became Speaker, I became appropriation’s chair.
CB: How was he as a Speaker? How was he different from Buddy Newman or John Junking who you also was under?
CC: I am so close to Tim that I really can’t hardly make any comparison. Either he comes at the end of the day to my office, or I go to his. We go out to dinner generally every night.
CB: So it is a pretty very close working relationship.
CC: Oh very close, very close. I wasn’t that close to these others. Tim and I are very close personal friends as well as political allies.
CB: What would you say has been in the years you had been in the legislators what would be the biggest change that you have seen? Maybe both positive and negative that you would say about?
CC: Oh a lot doesn’t change. It is just different folks doing it. It doesn’t change much. It is always the constant fear of the leadership of some other group trying to throw us out. There is always a group out there conniving trying to get our jobs. That goes on all of the time, everyday and every year. It has been that way since I have been there.
CB: Okay, who are some of the up and coming legislators who will be the leaders?
CC: Everything is in control now. There is not going to be any change in the House. The Speaker will be reelected. We have the written signatures. In fact we don’t want anymore because if you get too many you can not take care of all of them. So we need a few enemies.
CB: That makes since.
CC: The leadership of the State of the House something real interesting that alludes to what you were saying. We have a man named Mike Chany in the House from Warren County. He is really talented, smart, educated, republican but not an obnoxious republican. He just runs republican. Well he sees things so. He doesn’t see anyway for him to move up in leadership in the House, and I am sorry. So he his running for the Senate there is always to move up because there is so few of them, they turn over a lot.
CB: More so than the House.
CC: Yeah, much more so. He is running against a proven candidate, Ken Harper. He had beat Bo Drean. He weakened Brad Dye so bad that Eddie Briggs beat him. I think he is going to lose. I am sorry that he didn’t stay in the House with us because we could have certainly made a spot for him. We make republican’s chairman. We don’t look at folks about Republicans and Democrats. We look at the man, and we probably have as many republicans’ families than we do Democrats.
CB: I thought of another question that I kind of ask you before when I ask you about having these traditionally strong delta legislatures. Of course I am from south Mississippi. In fact I grew up in south Mississippi. Folks down there perceive that they haven’t really had a strong in the legislator among the leadership. Is that just because they don’t send people back as often? What?
CC: We hear about that. I really think the press drums that up down there. We hear about that, something individual. There is a man named Jim Simpson who is a young fellow from the coast. I think he has great talent to me. I think he can be anything he wants to be.
CB: Is he related to the Jim Simpson that was in the House for many years?
CC: It is his son.
CB: He is a son. Okay
CC: But you just got to elect somebody who has some leadership. Who is willing to stay there, and willing to serve. You just can not. Just because Lee Jarral Davis is there, Juniors Showa is the worst example I can think of. He hated the legislator. He hates Mississippi Southern, and I hate him. When you send folks like that.
CB: Well I think that is what you hear people talking about that’s just part of the problem. The people who are sending themselves are not people that stay there and really take it up the way maybe other folks do.
CC: I don’t well in the legislator we don’t look at somebody from where they are from.
CB: There is no conspiracy then?
CC: No there is any conspiracy.
CB: To keep the South-Mississippians out.
CC: No, not at all.
CB: Well let me just shift gears a little bit and ask you about Delta State. You know we are doing this as a part of a project with Delta State University. Tell me what your relationship with this University has been over the years. I know you did not go to school here, but of course you grew up here. Just tell me about what your relationship has been with the University?
CC: Okay, I do represent Delta State. For many years up until well I would say twenty years ago people of Cleveland didn’t even know Delta State was here. It wasn’t any impact hardly. As for the last decade or so Delta State has made a great impact on the city of Cleveland in so many different ways I couldn’t even begin to enumerate them in their everyday life, economic life, cultural life. Dr. Lucas was a good friend of mine. Dr. Kent Wyatt and I have been very close friend during all of his tenure. The way the thing has worked. They tell me. This has particularly been true with Dr. Wyatt. What he wants to do here at Delta State particularly in the buildings or really anything else. I have been able to get done what he tells me what he wants to do. I have been able to do almost anything he can dream of. I just been in the position to do it, and it was something I wanted to do. I wanted to see Delta State prosper and grow and be more of a player here in Cleveland, and they are. I really think in Delta State’s role as a regional university, I personally don’t managed to see them growing a whole lot more. They may want to. They may grow more.
CB: It is kind of a nice little campus, but it is very beautiful.
CC: Yeah that is it. I don’t think Cleveland equipped to see them grow, and not cause a lot of disturbance. They grow a hundred a year. That is okay. My relationship with Delta State is good, I think. I was on the committee that selected the new president. I think he is fitting in well. I think he will serve the University very, very well. One thing about Delta State when we got a new president nothing was broke that he had to come in a fix. He just has to keep everything going.
CB: Well that is a nice interesting thing.
CC: He will not have to fix a whole lot. I think to sum up my relationship with Delta State I don’t push myself on them a lot. I am there any time they need me. They call me and tell me what they think they need. Most of the time I can get it done.
CB: They obviously appreciate you. They named this whole building after you.
CC: They do, and I am greatly honored to. I am greatly honored.
CB: It is a very nice building.
CC: I have a National Guard Armory named for me too. I don’t ever see the National Guard. I ride by this one every day.
CB: Well let me just ask you some wrap up questions. Over the course of your life here you had spent most of your life here in the delta of Mississippi. What would you say the thing that you have noticed, well the biggest change that you have noticed in Mississippi over the years? Maybe again I will ask you about that positive and negative thing. What has been the biggest change for the better, and maybe something that maybe might not as good over the years?
CC: Well of course I have lived through a lifetime of changes.
CB: Yes you have.
CC: I began in a totally, I mean totally structured segregated life up until I was twenty- three years old. Then that has totally changed where there is no segregation. Nobody even talks about it anymore. That has certainly been a change. I will include in that where we had talked about earlier the plantation type life that everybody in the delta lived. We don’t do much of that anybody, and not many people live on the farms. Most people live in town. The people who work the farms go out there. So that has totally changed.
CB: Has the delta economically is it more prosperous now would you say than it was earlier, or was that kind of hey day, the plantation era.
CC: It was a hey day for a few folks. A few folks could pay their grocery bill, and they got along fine. Most everybody else was as poor as snakes. I think it is better economics. For Cleveland is different from Clarksdale and Greenwood particularly and Greenville in so many steps. Cleveland has a middle class pay level of folks. Clarksdale and Greenwood still have some well to do folks and a lot of poor folks. Cleveland is got a better economic base through Delta State and some of our industry.
CB: I kind of noticed that driving around here. There are some very nice neighborhoods. There were not real wealthy, but I see middle class.
CC: That is what we have that the other delta towns don’t have. That is particularly true to the smaller the town you get the more it is true. So yes everything is better.
CB: Well let me just ask finally is there anything I haven’t asked you that maybe I just? I know there is a lot you could talk about. We could probably talk for years. Is there something big that maybe I forgot to mention.
CC: I am pretty hoarse now. I have been talking for so long. I was proud of me being a soldier. I was a very patriotic man. I still am. We have covered being a sheriff. Most fun I had been sheriff. Parchman was totally under the trustee system. You know good paid folks, and it broke out over there all of the time.
CB: How far is that from here?
CC: Oh it is a joining county. It is probably fifteen or twenty miles.
CB: That is in Sunflower?
CC: Yeah, fifteen or twenty miles. Cleveland is the biggest town so they would come this way.
CB: That is where they would head.
CC: We would get the dogs and a big bunch of men. We would chase them for sometimes two or three days. I enjoyed that. I enjoyed manhunts. That is what I liked. I really enjoyed that. It wasn’t long before my term in office was over. It was about in December. We were chasing a boy that had broke out up around Hunt Over somewhere. I normally kept a deputy with me, but some kind of way I was by myself. I was kicking in doors, and going into empty houses. I thought to myself now I don’t need to be doing this here. That is the last time I did that.
CB: That can be dangerous.
CC: Oh it is dangerous. It is really dangerous, but I kind of enjoyed to do stuff, those manhunts. I didn’t enjoy the civil rights party at all. I didn’t enjoy that at all. I never wanted to be sheriff again. I have enjoyed my political days in the legislator because I have got in position where I can really serve my district and my state. I do that in a lot of ways. I don’t look at my job in the legislator just serving three counties that I have. I look at it as serving the whole state. I do just as much service to something in Hattiesburg as I do Cleveland. I get mail from all over the state. I get telephone calls. I always answer my letters from my district. A lot of times people from out of my district when there is nothing I can do about it I don’t answer them. When it is something I might can help I do try to answer it back. I answer all telephone calls. I look upon myself as a servant of the State more than just the delta.
CB: Well I appreciate you spending the time this morning to talk to me. It has been a real pleasure.
CC: Well I have enjoyed it too.