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Victory in Albany:
Remembering Laurie Pritchett

2,391 words

Laurie Pritchett and Martin Luther King

Laurie Pritchett lays down the law to Martin Luther King

People on the Alt Right tend to look forward a lot. After all, a future consisting of viable white ethnostates in Europe or North America is something we all want. What helps fuel this, however, is looking backwards into history and reminding ourselves of how good things were before mass Third-World immigration started to bring down our countries. We can also look to the past to remember how self-confident whites tended to be regarding race. Whites in large numbers need to reestablish this self-confidence if we wish to reclaim our homelands in the future.

One episode from history which exemplifies white racial self-confidence is that of Laurie Pritchett. Pritchett was the Albany, Georgia police chief at the time when Martin Luther King, Jr. and Civil Rights organizations such the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) were looking around for southern cities to desegregate. In 1962, SNCC decided to target Albany and sent black volunteers there to test their segregation laws. These volunteers, mostly students, walked up to “whites-only” ticket counters at bus stations and train stations to see what would happen. Predictably, Pritchett had them arrested.

What SNCC expected and what they got with Laurie Pritchett were two completely different things. Pritchett was no draconian hardliner like Birmingham’s Bull Connor or Selma’s Jim Clark. Instead, he was clever and sophisticated. Described as “a round-faced, impish-looking man with pink skin and light red hair,” Pritchett had taken the time to study the tactics of not only Martin Luther King, but also those of King’s role model, Mahatma Gandhi. Whereas today we are taught that there was an inevitability to the Civil Rights Movement, back in 1962 that was far from obvious. And after tangling with Pritchett, the future of the movement was never more in doubt.

In essence, Laurie Pritchett handed Martin Luther King a series of crushing defeats in Albany and set back the cause of black civil rights by a couple years. And it could have been much longer than that had white law enforcement taken Pritchett’s lead rather than that of Bull Connor.

Following the initial dust-ups with SNCC, King and thousands of volunteers came to town with the idea of marching in the street and “dramatizing the mistreatment of Negroes in Albany.” What they wanted was for Pritchett to take the bait and start busting heads, thereby giving journalists and photographers ample opportunity to demonize white authority and making black resistance seem saintly in comparison. Pritchett however had no intention of playing ball. He instructed his men to approach the marchers politely and to gently arrest them—not for breaking segregation laws but for disturbing the peace and for unlawful assembly. This move took a crucial piece of King’s off the board: the power to appeal. Legal appeals had settled the Montgomery bus boycott in November 1956 when the Supreme Court ruled racial segregation on buses unconstitutional. None of that was going to happen in Albany.

Another trick Pritchett had up his sleeve was a counter-punch to the Gandhian tactic of filling up jails. If you saturate the system with prisoners, the theory goes, eventually the system will lose its ability to arrest protesters and be helpless as they stomp all over the law. Well, prior to King’s arrival, Pritchett had a plan to prevent that from happening. Pritchett himself described his actions thusly:

I had made arrangements, and we had it on a map — Lee County, which was ten miles, and then we’d go out twenty-five miles, go out fifty miles, a hundred miles — all these places agreed to take the prisoners. So we had buses. When we would book and fingerprint, photograph, they would come right out and enter the buses and be taken to some other jail. We sent personnel along to see that they were not mistreated . . . stayed with ’em in the jails to see that nobody in the other counties mistreated or mishandled ’em . . . I think this is one thing that Dr. King was surprised at. This did away with method of overextending the facilities.

Indeed, one volunteer admitted later that “[w]e were naive enough to think that we could fill up the jails. Pritchett was hep to the fact that we couldn’t. We ran out of people before he ran out of jails.”

Pritchett also made the audacious move of releasing King and his immediate circle from jail, not once but twice. As the story goes, an “unknown black man” showed up and paid King’s fine in cash. Of course, Pritchett had secretly arranged for this, but at the time no one knew who this mysterious benefactor was, and Pritchett sure as heck wasn’t saying. Pritchett understood well that a Civil Rights celebrity like Martin Luther King, Jr. suffering in quiet dignity in prison would only engender sympathy for him in the press. By letting him walk so soon after his arrests while keeping the other protesters incarcerated, Pritchett not only prevented King from playing the victim card, but he also sowed discord among other civil rights activists who suspected it was King himself who had this mysterious black man set him free. This truly befuddled King and prompted his lieutenant Ralph Abernathy to lament, “I’ve been thrown out of a lot of places in my day but never before have I been thrown out of jail.”

In a similar vein, Pritchett afforded King and his circle extra care while in custody. This angered a lot of people, especially whites, who complained about black prisoners receiving better treatment than white ones. Pritchett responded that he couldn’t afford to have anything happen to King on his watch, or else “the fires would never cease.” In chess, we would call this a prophylactic measure, like making sure a knight cannot poke its way onto your second rank before moving against your opponent. It was a shrewd, almost cruel, move against King, again limiting his means to resist.

Most importantly, Laurie Pritchett was determined to meet non-violence with non-violence, another perspicacious strategy. In all cases, he made sure that his men acted firmly, but in a disciplined and peaceful manner (at least while the cameras were rolling). In fact, at one point Pritchett actually joined the protesters in prayer before locking them up! This tactic was devastating to the Civil Rights Movement because it made whites look like the good guys and the blacks like a bunch of rabble-rousers. Late in the Albany campaign, a large number of blacks rioted in response to the mistreatment of a woman bringing food to prisoners. They were extremely violent and hurled rocks, bricks, and beer bottles at police. And what did the police do in response? They kept their cool and cleared the streets without once resorting to violence.

Later, Pritchett must have felt quite satisfied when he asked reporters if they saw “them non-violent rocks.” Attorney general Bobby Kennedy even called Pritchett and congratulated him on keeping the peace. All King could do in the aftermath was lamely call for “a day of penance and a moratorium on protests.” After the dust had cleared, Pritchett couldn’t have declared victory more succinctly than when he proudly proclaimed that Albany was “as segregated as ever.”

Although the whites won that particular battle, they ultimately lost the war of civil rights. If anything, King learned not to wrangle with sophisticated law enforcement figures like Pritchett and instead take on more rough and ready predictable types like Connor and Clark. These two, although they compared notes with Pritchett, preferred more brute force methods, not realizing that attack dogs and fire hoses were exactly the things that would shift public opinion in King’s favor. Had they emulated the affable restraint and firm professionalism of Laurie Pritchett, who knows if the Civil Rights Movement would have ever recovered?

As inspiring as Laurie Pritchett’s story is, I realize that much of it is not terribly relevant today. Race relations between black and white are not what they used to be, with blacks becoming more violent, hateful, and racist, and with whites ceding much of their mainstream culture to them. Indeed, whites have grown positively timid in the face of black demands to the point of self-policing whites who still believe in race differences or oppose the anti-white practices of our major institutions. So, emulating the tactics Laurie Pritchett today would do little to pick up lost ground. We’re currently fighting a much more uphill today than in 1962. In some ways, given how affirmative action has caused much of our leadership to become black, it seems that the tables have almost completely been turned.

However, if there is one thing we can emulate about Laurie Pritchett today, it’s his racial self-confidence. He was so confident about enforcing segregation, he didn’t think he needed to resort to violence or intimidation. He knew he was right. He didn’t have to prove it to anybody. In fact, he used an interesting word to describe those who did: “opportunists.” He referred to Bull Connor and Jim Clark as opportunists, men who wanted to project themselves as “the great white leader and impress the people.”

I think Laurie Pritchett felt that it was impressive enough to enforce the laws on the books without much hoopla and with maximum civility. And I have a feeling that Martin Luther King, Jr. felt this way too.

Isn’t it ironic that of all his adversaries throughout the Civil Rights Movement, the one who gave King the most trouble, the one who checkmated him in Albany was one about whom King had positive things to say? In a speech, King said, “I sincerely believe that Chief Pritchett is a nice man, a basically decent man.” An incredible anecdote from this time reveals the respect King had for Pritchett. Once, during a conference in his office with King and his people, Pritchett received a telegram. As he described it:

I read and must have shown some concern over because Dr. King asked me if it was bad news. I said, “No, it’s not bad news, Dr. King. It just so happens that this is my twelfth weddin’ anniversary, and my wife has sent me a telegram.” And he says — I never will forget this and this shows the understandin’ which we had — he said, “You mean this is your anniversary?” And I said, “That’s right,” and I said, “I haven’t been home in at least three weeks.” And he said, “Well, Chief Pritchett, you go home tonight, no, right now. You celebrate your anniversary. I give you my word that nothing will happen in Albany, Georgia, till tomorrow, and you can go, take your wife out to dinner, do anything you want to do, and tomorrow at ten o’clock, we’ll resume our efforts.”

Can any of us imagine something like this happening today? Would an Al Sharpton or any of the Black Lives Matter crowd ever offer such a truce to a Sheriff Arpaio just to let the poor man have some quality time with his wife? No, of course they wouldn’t! They would rather extend that three weeks into thirty hoping that Arpaio dies of a heart attack before they would call for a ceasefire. And these blacks know less poverty and less oppression than the blacks of King’s day. They have less reason to gripe against white people, and yet, spoiled children that they are, they gripe more. That’s how nasty and petulant black activists have gotten these days when you stand in their way. Or even if you don’t stand in their way. They didn’t have knockout games and astronomical rates of crime in 1962, but they do today. And why?

Because blacks always follow whites in their thinking.

Whites lost their racial self-confidence some time during the Civil Rights Movement, and as a result blacks lost all respect for us. It’s as simple as that. But once upon a time, black people did respect whites. That was when we had our racial confidence, back when we were being led by clear-thinking and fearless men like Laurie Pritchett. And if it happened in the past, then we all know quite well it could happen again the future.

Author’s Note:

I first leaned about Laurie Pritchett in college while watching a Civil Rights documentary called Eyes on the Prize. I believe it was this one, starting at 4:15. It contains an interview with Pritchett from perhaps the late 1970s as well as some footage of him dealing with protesters in 1962. At the time, I was struck immediately with the simplicity and elegance of his methods and also with the matter-of-fact way in which he described them. I was a default anti-white liberal at the time, so I was shocked that anyone who opposed the Civil Rights movement could be so clear-minded.

Years later, I was reminded of the Albany victory in Stephan and Abigail Thernstrom’s probing America in Black and White from 1997They dedicated only a page and half to Pritchett, but summarized his chapter in the Civil Rights Movement so well that the story stuck with me throughout my adulthood. For this article, I used the Thernstrom volume as a source as well as My Soul Is Rested: Movement Days in the Deep South Remembered by Howell Raines (1977), Freedom Bound: A History of America’s Civil Rights Movement by Robert Weisbrot (1989), Parting the Waters: America in the King Years by Taylor Branch (1988), and the Laurie Pritchett entry in Stanford University’s Martin Luther King Encyclopedia online.

As for Laurie Pritchett himself, little else is known publicly as far as I can tell. He was born in 1926 and died in 2000. According to his all-too-brief Wiki page, “[h]e attended Auburn University and South Georgia College. He was an Army veteran and graduated from the National Academy of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Southern Police Institute at the University of Louisville.” After leaving Albany, he became the chief of police in High Point, North Carolina. He retired in 1975.

Perhaps someone reading this has access to Albany and can uncover more information about this interesting and important figure. Perhaps relatives, friends, neighbors, or colleagues still living in Albany can help shed some light on him. In any case, Laurie Pritchett should be remembered as a stalwart white man who stood up to the forced and unnatural integration of the races with impeccable class and came out a winner.



  1. Nero
    Posted September 20, 2016 at 12:57 am | Permalink

    Thank you Mr. Quinn for another great piece. However you said “As inspiring as Laurie Pritchett’s story is, I realize that much of it is not terribly relevant today.” I would disagree, I think the situation in Europe concerning the illegal immigrant invasion posses as a new “civil rights movement” for hardcore leftist trying to integrate them into a society that mostly does not want them. I think we all can confidently say that European leftists have studied the American Civil rights movement and would love nothing more than to replicate it in Europe, which they have been doing, multiculturalism, diversity etc..

    • Spencer Quinn
      Posted September 20, 2016 at 10:44 am | Permalink

      Nero, In the way you describe it you are absolutely correct. I was referring to how many of Pritchett’s *tactics* would not be relevant to law enforcement today, for example not arresting people for breaking segregation ordinances that don’t exist anymore. I should have made that clear in the article. Thanks for the comment.

  2. T
    Posted September 20, 2016 at 4:28 am | Permalink

    Best new to me history I’ve read in a while. Many thanks.

    • Spencer Quinn
      Posted September 20, 2016 at 10:40 am | Permalink

      Thanks for reading, T! It’s a fascinating story, isn’t it?

  3. Frank Booth
    Posted September 20, 2016 at 4:55 am | Permalink

    I have to disagree with the article. Pritchard’s tactics worked because they were unexpected. If his tactics had been copied, the Civil Rights people would have reacted and changed strategies. Also, the protests were relatively small at that point. They eventually moved to big cities and involved thousands of people. Had every police department used non-violence, then blacks would have felt comfortable going to white communities long before today, so the violence actually worked for awhile. I appreciate the man’s wisdom and self-control, but his strategy wasn’t copied because it couldn’t be. The trickle of Civil Rights became a flood. Once a movement becomes a movement, it can’t be stopped no matter the tactics of the enemy. Which is something we should keep in mind.

    • Spencer Quinn
      Posted September 20, 2016 at 10:39 am | Permalink

      Frank Booth, you make some interesting points. You may be correct. Please consider though that as King and his ilk changed strategies, so too could white law enforcement. Also, there is a difference between being firm and arresting people in a civilized way and siccing dogs on protesters and spraying them with fire hoses. I believe you are right in that with bigger demonstrations, law enforcement needed to crack down more than they did in Albany. But Pritchett was always aware of the PR angle of these protests and acted always to minimize it. Connor and Clark had no such concern, and gave photographers and filmmakers plenty of opportunity to make white authority look fascistic. I think that they could have found a less brutal but equally effective method to arrest protestors. Plus, Pritchett’s tactics worked incredibly well. I can’t imagine that different versions of them couldn’t have also worked in the bigger cities. Then again, I wasn’t there. Perhaps there was no other way.

  4. Peter Quint
    Posted September 21, 2016 at 7:11 am | Permalink

    Even if every sheriff at that time had adopted Laurie Pritchett’s tactics, they would only have delayed the inevitable. The black movement was revolutionary, financed with the incalculable wealth, and intelligence of the Jews; the white reaction was conservative, and backed by the Jewish fifth column of Christianity, which lacked intelligence, and vast wealth (it was being sent to 3rd world countries). A revolutionary movement will always defeat a conservative movement, especially if you are surrounded by subversives working for the enemy. The republicans have backed-up, and redrawn the lines so many times that conservatism versus liberalism is only an alternate method of how government monies are spent in supporting our enemies.

  5. Andrew
    Posted September 21, 2016 at 3:24 pm | Permalink

    Interesting tale of a civil rights warrior. The moral of the story is that intelligent decisions produce victories. I do not believe that it was “inevitable” that the civil rights battle played out as it did. There is no “invisible hand” of fate that determines human events. A counter-movement by Whites, let by intelligent, creative, energetic individuals could have arisen, had such leadership arisen and stepped forward.

  6. Jim
    Posted September 23, 2016 at 12:45 am | Permalink

    Spencer Quinn: Good article, however I have to agree with Frank Booth. I would also like to point out this sick fetish-like quality of some to seem “enlightened” by giving legitimacy to black grievance. Your quote “… And these blacks know less poverty and less oppression than the blacks of King’s day.” What is this obsession with vestigial politically correct self-censorship and/or acceptance of liberal presuppositions; i.e. there really are so-called black grievances? Do you think non-whites care about the hardships that white’s have endured? Nope, they don’t, and do not pretend to… We shouldn’t either, because if you try to always be fair to all, it is weak and self-defeating since you are projecting white sensibilities on to non-whites… To have true racial self-confidence is to not worry about the concerns of non-whites… Our People First!!
    On another note, why is it that whites would even concern themselves with those images “appearing” “mean” again, stop projecting your racial sensibilities on to a racial enemy, if you were getting beaten by blacks as occurs in the BLM protests, they laugh and cheer, the blacks NEVER worry about how brutal those images appear to fellow blacks, because they view you as a racial enemy, white need to stop with the leftist self-indulgences and ridiculous “high-minded enlightened bogus virtue” of self-hate, and wake up to reality: Those who want to live let them fight… The greater question is what is wrong with our culture that authority is somehow seen as negative? Especially when it is being used for self-preservation, and to advance our interests as in the case of the other police chiefs use of legitimate force.
    Nothing is inevitable certainly not the fraudulent “civil rights” movement. It was self-hating whites, liberal/leftist delusional presuppositions, and projection of your racial biological culture traits on to racial enemies. No reasoning with the enemy, just perseverance, and force…

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