Gerald Chatham Oral History Interview   OH# 293     January 19, 2005

Transcribed by W. Ray

Interviewed by Dr. Henry Outlaw and assisted by Bootsie Lyon


HO:  We are in the office of Mr. Gerald Chatham, an attorney, here in Hernando, MS.  This is January 19, 2005.  We will begin our interview on the Emmett Till Case. Gerald, first of all I want to thank you for doing this, for giving us this interview.

GC:  It has been a pleasure.

HO:  I guess the first question I would have would be how old were you…I tell you what, let’s back up and talk about your dad.  Your dad was the District Attorney in this case.

GC:  Correct.

HO:  If you could just tell me a little bit about your dad and being District Attorney and maybe how he came to have this case, and we will go from there.

GC:  Okay.  I will try not to get emotional.  When they interviewed me I was telling you before for PBS, I kinda got a little emotional cause I idolized my dad.

HO:  I can imagine.

GC:  I was the only boy of four children.  I was the youngest.  Anyway, Daddy grew up in Hernando, he was born in 1906, February 17, 1906.  I wouldn’t say they were poor, but his father died two weeks before he was born.  And his mother remarried and then my grandmother had three other children by her second husband.  My daddy was relegated to the role of a red headed stepchild.  Not to say he was mistreated.  He really wasn’t mistreated.  He had an older brother that was tragically killed so daddy grew up, you know, without any real assistance from his stepfather.  Went to Ole Miss, worked his way through college and was a charter member of Pike Fraternity at Ole Miss.  Married my mother.  Soon thereafter was elected, I think he was still in law school when he was elected to the Mississippi House of Representatives.  Daddy was an excellent speaker and had a wonderful command of the English language.  And if you heard any tapes of his voice, which I have listening to some of these things, had a real distinguished southern type of manner of speech.  He could spellbind an audience with his gift.  He was an English major in college, and some of his letters, particularly some of those he wrote to his mother when he was in college, are just wonderful.  The real expressions are a command that I don’t have. I wish I did.  Then briefly -his political career.  He was elected county attorney and then elected county superintendent of education.  Defeated an incumbent that was county superintendent of education.  I think it was 1941 that there was a special election for district attorney.  Jamie Whitten from Tallahatchie County was the district attorney and he got elected in a special election to congress.  Then they had a special election for district attorney.  Daddy was elected District Attorney in 1941 and served in that capacity until he didn’t run for election in 1955.  The year that they had this trial.  Daddy’s health at this time had begun to deteriorate.  He suffered from high blood pressure and probably nowadays with the medical advances and things that they have nowadays of lowering cholesterol and lowering blood pressure – would have lived another twenty-five or thirty years.  But they didn’t have anything in those days to lower his blood pressure.  He had violent nose bleeds and things and he had to go to the hospital and they had to pack his head in ice.  And then he had a fatal heart attack on October 9 I think it was in 1956.  They had just opened Producers Gin here which was a very modern state of the art cotton gin.  He was a shareholder and he introduced the speakers and everything.  He was not feeling well and went home and laid down in the bed and had a fatal heart attack and died that afternoon about 5:30.

HO:  Now how old was he?

GC:  He was fifty years old.  The year before that was when the Till trial was had.  My first memory of that was people, my two, three older sisters, one married; I think in 1955 I believe my older sister got married that year.  And she married a veterinarian here and they live here in Hernando.  But at that time he had to go into the Air Force.  I won’t say he was drafted, but he, they got him.  And he had to go into the Air Force.  They moved to Boise, Idaho to the Air Force base out there where he was the post veterinarian.  Then I had an older sister who was at Ole Miss and during the Till trial my youngest, baby sister Carole, who has since passed away this past October, was a senior in high school during the trial.  So, I was kinda, there was six years difference between my,  I call my baby sister, Carole, and myself.  You know a kid eleven years old you are kinda in your own world.  You know I was more interested in what Mickey Mantle’s batting average was then I was anything else.  (laughs)

I can remember John Chancellor, it is as vivid as it can be in my mind; John Chancellor coming to our house and interviewing my family, you know with all the lights and television cameras and stuff.  They never aired any of that but, I remember them going out to our farm.  My dad was a lawyer and a farmer.  He had acquired through hard work about a thousand acres of land.  I think he bought the last like 160 acres in 1952 and anyway, let me guess conservatively, probably ten families living on our farm at that time in kind of a share cropping thing.  We farmed cotton and corn mainly.

HO:  Was that delta land or in the hills?

GC:  No it was hill land.  I live out there now.  It was, a lot of bottomland, it was good land.  Daddy loved cows and we had cattle and we had cotton and we had corn and we had mules.  I remember when we bought our first tractor how proud daddy was of that doggone tractor.  John Chancellor went out there and interviewed the help on our place.  He thought that was a real twist that the  white prosecutor was going to prosecuting white men for killing a black boy.  And he was going to see what the black people on our place thought about all that.  And much to his chagrin, those black people out there thought my daddy was the greatest thing this side to Jesus Christ.  My daddy was a fair man.  He loved people.  It didn’t matter about what color your skin was.  We were raised to treat everybody alike, everybody equal.   That’s just the way he lived his life, he treated those black people with respect.  They loved him.  Matter of fact, he helped them..  A guy named C.G. Rayborn.  C.G. was kind of daddy’s foreman.  C.G. was uneducated but a good man and hard worker.  Daddy helped him buy some land; I think helped him buy 80 acres of land.  C.G. had twelve children and I think about eight of them graduated from college.  We were always real proud of C.G.  Until the day he died, he always loved our family, loved my dad.  Going back they didn’t that air interview either because the black people didn’t say what they wanted them to say.  (laughs)  But I can just remember, Daddy didn’t talk about his work at home, he didn’t bring it home with him.  But we would sit on our front porch and he would talk to me about things.  I can remember us talking about the Till trial and the facts of what happened.  You know daddy didn’t commute.  Sumner was a long way away then.

HO:  That’s right it was; roads were bad.

GC:  Yeah, and he would drive down there and generally stay down there.  And he stayed down there during that trial.  He didn’t drive back and forth.

HO:  What was the district?

GC:  Same as it is now.  It’s a little skewed now because of the population of Desoto County, but it goes right down 55.  It’s Desoto, Tate, Panola, and then kind of does a tee, Yalobusha County and Tallahatchie County.  Five counties.  Same, you know when I was the district attorney.  Same district.

HO:  Gerald when I called you to ask you if you would agree to an interview.  I think I told you that I was reading about your dad late one night.  That’s when my wife and I read in the bed there, I told her I think I just found Atticus Finch.  .

GC:  Yeah you told me that.

HO:  I was just wondering if that was an accurate assessment of your dad.

GC:  Well you know, the difference in daddy and Atticus was that Atticus kind of voluntarily took on the job.  That was daddy’s job.

HO:  That was his responsibility wasn’t it?

GC:  That was his responsibility as district attorney.  Although he could have gotten off the case.  There were…he had opportunities, the Governor had…I have heard my granddaddy talk about it.  My granddaddy tried to talk him into getting off the case because of his health.  His health wasn’t good.  There’s no doubt in my mind the trial really took a toll on him.  You can look at the mail in that box.  Some of it is good, but a lot is hate mail.  That is something that just didn’t happen in our society.  Daddy did the right thing.  I mean, Daddy was a Christian man.  He went to church on Wednesday nights, went to Sunday school, Sunday, Sunday night.  Not just him, his family went.  Every Easter our family walked to Church.  Held hands and walked to Church.  Daddy was really a devout Christian man.  He liked to take a drink of whiskey, ain’t no doubt about that.  Like a lot of us he…

HO:  Which Church was it?

GC:  He was Methodist.  The Church that he grew up in.  What kills me nowadays is to see people give their children a choice about going to church or Sunday school.  There wasn’t any choice at my house; Sunday morning that was the Lord’s Day; you got up and you went to Sunday school and Church and there wasn’t any choice and I am very thankful for that, that discipline that he instilled in me.  You know he was a heck of a lawyer.  I have had countless, ever since I have been a lawyer; I had countless lawyers tell me what a fine lawyer he was.  Had them tell me he was one of the top lawyers in the state.  Best lawyer in North Mississippi.  Best lawyer in the mid south.  Was a gifted man in that regard.  Very impeccable reputation.

HO:  What do you think made him so good?  Was it his work ethic, intellect, or a combination of both?

GC:  You had to know his personality.  When he died there were probably fifteen men came to the funeral that night….I’m sorry.

HO:  It’s alright.

GC:  It’s terrible.  I’m kind of sentimental.  About fifteen people came to the funeral that night and told me that my daddy was their best friend….

BL:     But that’s a wonderful memory to have.

HO:  That is.

GC:  I’ll bet you haven’t seen many sixty year old men cry?

BL:      Yes I have.

HO:   You are looking at one of them.  Yeah, I am sentimental too, especially with regard to friends and family.

BL:       And I like that kind of person better.

GC:  Anyway, he had just a wonderful personality.  Always a good word to say about everybody.  He always looked for the best in people.  He was an uplifter.  He made people feel good about themselves.  You know people came to our house and paid my mother money after his death that she knew nothing about, that he had loaned money too.

HO:  If you can, can we focus on…..

GC:  He grew up rough.  During the depression.  He appreciated a dollar.  He appreciated people.  I mean he was just a good man.   I had always felt deprived ‘cause he died when I was so young.  I had a chip on my shoulder for a long time about it.

HO:  Now how old were you?

GC:  I was eleven.  But I was a pretty good football player and I used to cry before and after the games.

BL:      That’s a tough time for a boy to lose his dad.

HO:  Really is.

BL:      Really is.

GC:  Anyway.  I’m sorry.  I knew this was going to happen.

HO:  I suppose this is accurate.  That after the trial that Mamie Till came up and told your Dad that he could not have done better.  That she was pleased with…

GC:  Who did?

HO:   Mamie Till.  That’s reported in some of the literature that she did that.

GC:  Yeah, I think that is accurate.  The black community has always been very complimentary of my dad.  Even the northern newspapers were; and of Judge Swango also, the way he conducted the trial.  Sheriff Strider was another matter.

HO:  What do you know of Robert Smith, the Prosecutor?  He was from Ripley.

GC:  Well you know he was from Ripley.  Daddy called him Bobby I think. They were contemporaries.  I don’t know whether Daddy and Bobby were in school together, or they were good friends though.  Bobby Smith was a tall, dark, wavy black hair, nice looking guy.   I can remember at Daddy’s funeral that we pulled up at the Church and Bobby came up to the car and embraced Mama you know.  His son, Jak, practices law in Tupelo now.  J-A-K.

HO:  Will you hand me that tablet please so I can make a note or two as we are chatting.     Excuse me go ahead.

GC:  Anyway Jak lives in Tupelo.

HO:  That’s Jak Smith?

GC:  Jak Smith.  J-A-K Smith.

GC:  And Bobby was just a well know trial lawyer.  Daddy had asked the Governor to appoint somebody to assist him, or the Attorney General; I don’t remember exactly who made the appointment.

HO:  I think that is right.  I think the Governor did that.  If the literature is right on that.  I guess that was Governor Hugh White?

GC:  Hugh White or Fielding Wright, I’m not sure which.

BL:       It was White I think.

HO:  You mentioned some of the letters that your dad got.  I guess some supportive and some not supportive.  Maybe we can talk about that a little bit.  I was just wondering about….

GC:  I think most of them were fairly favorable.  There were those that people went to the trouble to going to the newspaper or magazine and cut out and paste them on the letter and some of them was “nigger lover” or stuff like that you know.  Most of them were complimentary.  A lot of it was just historical stuff.  I think Daddy saw this as a conflict between his southern, I guess maybe I shouldn’t say Southern, maybe I should say Mississippi heritage and upbringing, and doing the morally upright thing.  I don’t he ever hesitated.

HO:  Yeah.  He fell down on the side of the right thing to do.

GC:  Yes.  As late as yesterday, I had Bill Luckett, lawyer at Clarksdale, he was asking about, a lot of stuff going on now about Emmett Till around you know.  Jerry Mitchell at Clarion Ledger has done a lot of work on Emmett Till.  I talked to Jerry lately.  I was talking to Bill about it and of course Bill is a fine lawyer, his daddy was a fine lawyer, his granddaddy was a fine lawyer.  I mean there is a fine heritage there and Bill said some really nice things about my daddy and how proud he was of my daddy’s stance on this and just –  that’s been the theme throughout my legal career has been other lawyer’s have always told me that Daddy did the right thing,  how proud they were of him and it is something to be really proud of, and I have been.

HO:  Yeah.  It is a great legacy to live.

GC:  It is.  And the name of this law firm, Chatham Law Firm, that is named in his honor.  Established in 1932, that’s the year that he started practicing out there on the door.  And his picture will always hang in here and I am very grateful that he gave me a heck of a legacy.  Big shoes to fill.

HO:  You know as I have gotten in to this case, it seems to be sorta two schools of thought as to what happened.  Where Emmett Till was killed.  Was it in  Sunflower County or Tallahatchie County.  Recently I went to Drew, a lot of friends live over there, and one of them took me to the site where supposedly he was killed in Sunflower County, on the Milam Farm.  I won’t say Milam Plantation because it was a very small farm I understand.  So, as we dig into that, I think it becomes one of the issues.  Where was he killed?  And who was involved?  I guess the next question I have is what do you think about the reopening of the case by the Justice Department?

GC:  I don’t think it’s going to go anywhere, I don’t see how it could.  I mean, you know, everybody is dead for Christ’s sake.  I mean, you know the only person that I – let’s see Milam and uh..

BL:  Bryant.

GC:  Bryant.

HO:  Their both dead right?

GC:  Um hum.  And the lady that..she’s still living.  And Harvey Henderson, who was the attorney in Sumner was involved in that trial.  I think those two are the only two people living that had anything at all to do with that case and that trial.  Other than that young black man that now they’ve found, well he’s not young anymore, but he was young at the time.  I just don’t see how because of the legal problems that they are going to have of double jeopardy.  What does it accomplish?  I mean other than opening wounds.  I don’t know how the Emmett Till’s family or heirs feel about that.  I don’t know.  I kinda got mixed emotions about it.  I guess the lawyer in me on one side says yeah, let’s get to the bottom of it.   The lawyer on the other side says it’s not going to be anything but a waste of taxpayers money cause you stir a pot and pull something out but what have you got?  So, I don’t know.  I think it is a little late – a lot late.

HO:  Yeah.  Trail has gotten cold to hasn’t it?

GC:  Yeah.  You know one confessed after the trial.  He sold his story to Life Magazine and…

HO:  Actually they both did.

GC:  They both did?  I was just thinking it was one of them.  And sold his story to Life Magazine and confessed.  You know they have been tried and acquitted and I don’t know how you try them again for murder, now you might try them again for something else, for kidnapping or something.  Certainly because of double jeopardy you can’t try them again for murder, regardless.  It’s not the first time that a guilty man has gone free.  I have seen it happen.

HO:  You know another thing that was interesting to me.  I taught Forensic Science at Delta State for a number of years and there was very little physical evidence in that case.

GC:  The gin fan and the barb wire..

HO:  Gin fan, barb wire and the ring.  That’s about it.

GC:  And the ring yeah.  You know nowadays that would have probably been a simple case.  I mean with pathology and forensics what it is today and DNA.  Their whole defense was that that was not Emmett Till.  That was not.  I mean they would have the body identified in 48 hours.

HO:  Exactly.

GC:  And dental records and DNA and whatever they might have had.  You know, I, I mean, how many times in the last 10 or 15 years have you seen them not be able to identify a body?

HO:  Doesn’t happen anymore.

GC:  Doesn’t happen.  Too much there with all the modern scientific evidences available now, I mean evidence gathering devices that they have.  I think it would have just been a slam dunk.  And as many witnesses that they had to it at that time.  And of course people were afraid.  People were afraid to come forward to testify.  They knew that they could be next.  Their family could be next.  I think several of the witnesses even moved away.  The black family that testified, me here.

BL  :  Mose Wright.

HO:  Mose Wright.

GC:  Mose Wright.  Didn’t he move away after that?

BL  :  He moved off to Chicago I think immediately.

GC:  So you know people, you know, it is so foreign to the way I was raised.  Because nobody in DeSoto County, the people that I grew up around, they didn’t have, that kind of thinking wasn’t around here.  DeSoto County, uh Tallahatchie County was different.

HO:  Yeah, I think so.  I grew up in north (inaudible)

GC:  It was still different when I went there in 1972 as the brand new elected district attorney.  It was still different.

HO:  Yeah I think it is still that way.

GC:  I’m not going to call any names but I had a black man that killed another black man in Charleston.  It was out and out murder.  A man was sitting in a car and a man walked up to an open window and stuck a gun to the back of the man’s head and killed him.  And the accused lawyer wanted to give him a suspended sentence.  I said are you crazy?  Not as long as I am District Attorney that is not going to happen.  And an elected official came to me and said, Gerald it is just a nigger killing another nigger.

HO and L:  Right.

GC:  And I thought to myself, good gosh almighty, what have I gotten into down here.  In 1970.  And I don’t use that word, I am just quoting what people said.  Anyway, that kind of thinking didn’t go on here.  And I am proud of that.  But you know, I remember growing up, we had the Klan, but there was one man in the eastern part of this county that was reportedly the head of the Klan in Desoto County.  They were never visible, nobody ever said anything, and the old guy died, and you know, I don’t know.

BL:  No crosses burned.

HO:  That was the end of it.

GC:  I guess that was the end of it.  I don’t know.

HO:  Do you think your daddy ever had any fear during the course of the trial?

GC:  I don’t think so.  Daddy was a – during the Depression Daddy fought – was a prize fighter professionally for money.  I mean, he could take care of himself pretty good.  I think that is where the Chatham children, and I’m talking about me and four sisters, three sisters, and all of our children, we call it the Chatham spunk.  I think that is where we got it.  I think if my daddy thought he was right that he would fight a buzz saw.  (laughs)

HO:  Is that right?  (laughs)

GC:  No, I don’t think he was ever afraid.  I think he may have been concerned about his family.  But I don’t think he was personally ever afraid.

HO:  Any calls to the house?

GC:  Oh yeah, there were calls.  People would call and hang up.  People would say things like “you’re next.”  Oh yeah, there was stuff like that all the time.  Some of that mail was, I think, pretty well dismissed.  I mean nobody certainly made any threats that could be identified or anything.  I don’t think there were any serious threats ever.

HO:  If there is a transcript of that trial I don’t know where it is, do you?  I was told there was one in Charleston and I went over there and it turned out to be a scrap book.

GC:  J.W. Kellum had a copy of the transcript.  J.W. has since died.  There is one that is in, that I am told, maybe I shouldn’t be telling this but I don’t care, the FBI has one.  And I have been told that, I don’t guess I was told that in confidence, I don’t know.  I expressed my desire to that person at the FBI that I would like a copy of one when all that is said and done that I was assured that I would get a copy.

BL  :  I read in some of the literature that it was not required that a transcript of the trial was kept in Mississippi unless the verdict is appealed.

GC:  Well, I don’t think there is.  I don’t know that there is any requirement that the transcript be kept by the court reporter.  I think it is kinda up, I’m not real familiar with court reporter laws, I don’t know how long they are required to keep a trial.  I really don’t know.  But I know they are not required to transcribe it.  Certainly.  Somebody probably asked that that would be transcribed and you know nowadays a court reporter comes in here and sets up a little machine like that and one of these computerized stenographic shorthand machines.  And they sit here and type the transcript while we are talking.

BL  :  That’s amazing isn’t it?

GC:  You know in a matter of (tape cuts off)

(Other side of tape)

HO:  ……good therapy.

GC:  I think it is.  And it’s not Emmett Till that I get emotional about, it is my father’s memory and things that I get emotional about.

HO:  Exactly.  Sure.

BL  :   But I think talking about our memories keeps things alive.

HO:  I think that is a real valuable oral history.

GC:  And I have done a lot of research, not on Emmett Till but on my dad’s background and everything, his political career.  Just so I would know, just so I could pass that on.

HO:  Gerald, I want you to tell us about Shep.  (laughs) When I read that, I loved that story.

GC:  Well you know a good trial lawyer is always going to have a story to tell.  The best final, closing arguments that generally a lawyer can relate the facts of a case to a particular story that has some human interest appeal.  We all try to do that as trial lawyers.  I have never used the Shep story but I have used similar ones.  I had a dog when I was here in town named Shep.  Shep I got as a little puppy.  He was a dog, he wasn’t any type of particular breed or anything.  But he was big and about that tall and he was just fuzzy.  I mean he was just fuzzy!  But that was my dog you know, old Shep.  And he had I guess some shepherd in him, and I guess that is where the name Shep came from.  And we lived right here on Highway 51 a couple of blocks north of the square.  And that was the main thoroughfare.  And one afternoon-and it probably wasn’t very long before this -, may have been a year before this trial, probably fresh on daddy’s mind.  One afternoon after school somebody called the house and said there is a dog up here on the highway and it looks like Gerald’s dog.  So I don’t know, mother told me somebody told it, and I went running up there and laying in the middle of highway 51 was Shep.  I picked up and brought him back to the house and his blood all over me.  And I was of course – you see how emotional I am, I was all to pieces.  I got the shovel and buried Shep.  Then got in the bed and cried myself to sleep.  It was quite a tragedy.  I didn’t want another dog for a long time.  Matter of fact, I don’t remember the next dog I had until I acquired a bird dog or two.  But a pet, I don’t think I had another one till I was an adult.  It was very traumatic for me.

HO:  I think it was great the way he wove that into the story.

GC:  Yeah.  It was.  I had heard that before.

HO:  I read also that during that summer, especially among the blacks and some whites too, that there was not a dry eye.  That it was a very emotional summary that your dad gave.  Would you like to comment on that?

GC:  I don’t know anything about that.  But I just know that having heard stories about some of his other trials.  I know he defended a man one time here in the courthouse.  He had the man bring his family and the man had a little girl that was real pretty.  Daddy went out and got the little girl and held her in his arms during his closing arguments.  And he was crying, the jury was crying, and the judge was crying.  The theme was that you’re not going to put this man in the penitentiary and take this little girl’s daddy away.  And it worked.  Like I said, he was a hell of a lawyer.  (laughs)

HO:  He must have been.

GC:  And daddy had a, he could really read people.  You could not lie to him.  Boy he would nail you so fast.  I mean, he really believed in solid eye contact and that sort – things like that he taught all his children.  You know about shaking hands and making eye contact.  You know to this day I open the car door for women and I pull their chair out and when a woman walks into the room I stand up.  They say you are such a gentleman – who raised you all that?  I said well, my dad wouldn’t tolerate any other way but second of all you have to understand, after he died I was raised by four women, so.  (laughs)  Golly.

HO:  Let’s see. Sheriff Strider.  I keep getting back to that.  It is hard to believe that that went on.  Looking through our eyes today at those times.  That Sheriff Strider….

GC:  Those clips on that film has him live and in color, not in color, live, loud, “now you niggers sit over here, this is all reserved for the white folks.”  Right there on national television.  Then there was something else, where he said, “We treat our niggers different down here.”  Or something like that I mean, on national television.  I mean….

BL  :  I know he said, “we ain’t never mixed with ya’ll and we ain’t going to start now,” I remember that being in there.

HO:  Do you have any opinions on the Sheriff?

GC:  I never knew Sheriff Strider.  I knew his…his name was Clarence Strider right?

HO:  I think that is correct.  H.C.

GC:  Yeah.  I’ve known I think his son, was a State Senator Donald Strider, I think.  Then he had another son, I think his name is Clarence.  That may have been the sheriff down there for a short period of time.  But I knew those people.  I knew the family.  I wouldn’t want to voice an opinion of Sheriff Strider for the record.  I don’t even know what you all have seen.  The sheriff I worked with down there was Sheriff Dogan.  And then one term I worked with after Sheriff Dogan got beat, worked with a sheriff named Marion Fulks.  Who was a retired highway patrolman.  I don’t even know what I have seen.

HO:  Lucy, do you have any questions?  More questions?

BL:  So what I hear you saying is that you did not feel as a child any stress at home during the trial, which is amazing.

GC:  I did not.  I pattern my life after my dad’s in that regard.  But in most every regard.  I don’t take my work home.  I don’t have an office at the house.  When I walk out that door I want it left here.  And that is kinda the way he was.  He liked to sit on his front porch – I never knew what was in the glass, but I knew.

BL:  Relaxation.

GC:  It was sipping time.

HO:  Yeah.

GC:  That’s just an example of the way he was.  Growing up they had friends over, but we never saw a bottle.  Us children never saw a bottle.  It was not put on the table.  And that is just the way he was.  Oh, I saw him drink a beer one time.  Like when we were going to the gulf coast.  We went down there on vacation several times.  And everything up here was dry and you didn’t get to a wet county until you got down there somewhere around Winona or somewhere down in there.  And he would always stop the car.  And this was before air conditioning days.  And we would stop and he’d get out of the car and walk into this little roadside thing.  And all us kids would say, “Mama where is daddy going?”  “Oh he’s going in there….” for something, I don’t know, she would make an excuse.  He’d come out in about ten minutes and we’d say, “Daddy, what did you do in there?”  And he’d say, he’d always say, “I went in there and got me a glass of sour buttermilk.”  (laughs)  And he was going in getting him a beer.  Going in drinking him a beer.  (laughs)  You know that was one of the things that I always felt deprived of. I only knew him as a daddy, I never knew him as a man.  I always hated that.  That’s why I spent a lot of time researching his career and dates and things, and I am pretty familiar, well I am very familiar with his political career.

BL:  It has sort of filled in the gaps for you hasn’t it?

GC:  Um hum.

BL:  Well as my grandparents who raised me, my grandmother used to say, he was a prince of a fellow.  He sounds like he certainly was.

GC:  Thank you.  I think so.

HO:  Gerald, did you say the FBI – have they interviewed you?

GC:  On the phone, they said they are coming to interview me.  But they have not yet.  I’ve told  them – I’ll be glad to talk to you, but I don’t know what I am going to tell you that is going to help your investigation any.  I’ve told you about everything I know.  They want to see my box.  I don’t know anything that I can help them with.  I mean, really.  I was an eleven year old kid.

HO:  That’s right.  Sure.  Yeah.  Like you say, your father didn’t bring the work home so he didn’t discuss that at the house did he?

GC:  He really didn’t.  I can remember him asking me, telling me about the case, and asking me as he often did, do you think daddy doing the right thing.  Of course, whatever daddy was doing was the right thing as far as I was concerned.   You know I am prejudiced, I mean I am not your typical kid.  I never wanted to be a fireman, a cowboy, or superman or anybody like that.  I never wanted to be anything but a lawyer like my daddy.  It was just total….

BL:  Tremendous role model.

GC:  Oh yeah.

HO:  So eleven year old is…let’s see, what grade would you be in at eleven years old?

GC:  Sixth grade.  Because I was in the seventh grade when he died.

HO:  Any problems at school?  Friends making comments or anything?

GC:  No.  There would have been a fight if there had.  I don’t ever remember any kid, or friend, or kid, or acquaintance or schoolmate saying anything derogatory about my dad, or about the Till Trial or anything.   I never heard one comment.  I have seen them in print, but I never heard one.

HO:  When you say in print, are you talking about the letters?

GC:  In letters.  I don’t think –  most everything I have seen has been very complimentary of him and how he handled the trial.  I don’t think that I have seen anything.  The negative comments are not  about the prosecution, but the whole surrounding event, how something like that could have happened.  That the people could be so filled with hate because of somebody’s color that they would allow something like that to happen.  And how you could just kill somebody because they did something that you didn’t like and they are black and it’s okay.

HO:  If a white had done the same thing it probably very little would have been done.

BL:   Probably said, “Boy I’ll tell your mama to wash your mouth out with soap, “ and that would have been the end of it.”  Well he must have done an impeccable job because with the emotions and all surrounding it, you probably would have heard some negative comments at some place.  Cause that really speaks to me about what a wonderful job that he must have done.

GC:  (inaudible)….be in court, and they were prosecuted to the best of his ability and all the facilities that were at his disposal at that time were utilized and it was not a rubber stamp or a white wash.  And I guess that is what I am most proud about is that he did the right thing.

HO:  Anything else?

BL:   No, that I can think of.

HO:  Gerald, want to share anything else?

GC:  Well I have cried all over your tape recorder.  I don’t know what else I can do.  I will be happy to share my box with you.  I thought it was here.  When I looked yesterday afternoon I couldn’t find it.

(Tape cuts off here)