JACKSON, MISSISSIPPI: AN AMERICAN
CHRONICLE OF STRUGGLE AND SCHISM
By John R. Salter, Jr. [Hunter Gray] MY BOOK IS THE ONLY FULLY DETAILED ACCOUNT OF THE HISTORIC
AND MASSIVE JACKSON MOVEMENT OF 1962-63. IN FACT, IT'S THE MOST DETAILED
ACCOUNT OF ANY MAJOR CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT OF THE '60s. IT HAS NOW BEEN PUBLISHED AND
ISSUED IN ITS ENLARGED AND UPDATED VERSION BY THE UNIVERSITY OF NEBRASKA PRESS.
PLEASE SEE DETAILS BELOW.
James Loewen (author of Lies My Teacher Told Me
and other works), November 9 2012:
Jackson, Mississippi presents a vivid
insider's view of the Jackson boycott movement, the demonstrations that led
to mass arrests, the actions of courageous young people, and the murder of
Medgar Evers and the incredible tension of his funeral march. As you would
expect, given that Salter was and is a sociologist and a radical, it also
contains penetrating analyses of the role of each acting group, including
the national office of the NAACP, black ministers, the city government and
police force, White Citizens Council, etc. And it shows the important role
played by Tougaloo, some of its students and faculty members (including
Prof. Salter), and its president, A. D. Beittel.
SCROLL DOWN FOR INFORMATION ON THE NEW BOOK
AND SOME REVIEWS AND MORE ON THE WOOLWORTH SIT IN. MY "AUTHOR'S
BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH" (2012) IS AT THE BOTTOM OF THIS PAGE ALONG WITH A
RECENT -- AUGUST 2012 -- PIECE OF MINE: "PROGRESS: A MOSTLY
DEEP SOUTH TALE."
BASIC MEMOIR: AN ORGANIZER'S BOOK (HUNTER
BEAR) WIDELY POSTED
COMMENTS BY HUNTER BEAR:
This note does not call for a
response from anyone. People are busy.
I've already received some fine
comments about the the new version of my book, Jackson
Mississippi. (Susan Klopfer, a Southern Movement writer, did a
most positive review forthwith!) One comment came from Mary
Ann, an old friend and former Tougaloo student of mine and a
strong and committed worker on behalf of our Jackson Boycott
Movement out of which we developed the mass, non-violent Jackson
Movement. She writes:
Hi Mr. Salter, finally received
your book in the mail yesterday. Was anxious to read the new
introduction. Initially I was confused as to what this had to
do with Jackson, Ms. but as I continued to read , I had an aha
moment . It dawned on me. These experiences made you into the
person we came to know , love and appreciate in Jackson/Tougaloo,
Those are very kind
words -- and it's certainly mutual. (WWW, I should add, was
the slogan of our Jackson struggle: WE WILL WIN.) And Mary
Ann's apt comments have led me to write this:
I and my good family have been
having an interesting life these past many decades. We'd do it
all over again. And we're not at the end of the trail by a long
But, interesting and productive as I
think it's been, I very much doubt that any autobiography I did
-- as per the repeated suggestions and encouragement of good
friend Bill Mandel -- would ever find its way into print. By
the same token, I doubt that anyone would be interested in doing
a biographical book on me. The just now out third version of my
book, Jackson Mississippi: An American Chronicle of Struggle and
Schism (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2011), is, as I
indicate in its new and substantial Introduction, "an
Growing up in Northern Arizona, in
a setting replete with social justice issues and committed early
on to grassroots and activist community organizing, I,
personally, have always been especially interested in the lives
of effective activists. Two of those, autobiographies, had a
very significant and enduring impact on me back in 1955 when I
was 21: Bill Haywood's Book: The Autobiography of William D.
Haywood (New York: International Publishers, 1929 and subsequent
editions) and Ralph Chaplin's Wobbly: The Rough and Tumble Story
of an American Radical (Chicago: University of Chicago Press,
1948.) And there followed many other works, from social justice
fighters of many ethnicities and cultures.
I, my family, and many friends have
long felt there should be some sort of widely available account
of who I and my family are, where we come from, what we stand
for -- and what we've accomplished over many turbulent decades.
While my book obviously focuses very basically and heavily on
the carefully organized and ultimately massive Jackson Movement of 1962-63, its original epilogue,
"Reflections on an Odyssey," covers a number of my subsequent
campaigns into 1978. And now, the new Introduction --
about 9,500 words --
updates organizing and related matters to the present, has
some Mississippi, provides
personal and family background, motivational insight, and some
of my key reflections as a life-long activist Organizer.
Taken in total, and standing alone,
this book is my basic memoir. I expect it to be useful to a wide
variety of social justice activists of all ages -- and very much
younger and developing people of all backgrounds.
Hunter Gray (John R. Salter, Jr.)
October 25 2011
HUNTER GRAY [HUNTER BEAR/JOHN R
SALTER JR] Mi'kmaq /St. Francis
Abenaki/St. Regis Mohawk
Protected by NaŽshdoŽiŽbaŽiŽ
Prologue comments from Colia
Liddell Lafayette Clark to her list of colleagues: 9/14/05
I received this note from Hunter Gray Bear (John Salter). Hunter Bear was my
professor at Tougaloo College and one of the sharpest organizers in both the
southern civil rights movement and labor movement in the USA. He agreed to
serve as advisor to a the newly organized Jackson, Ms NAACP North Jackson
Youth Council in 1961. This was no small decision. Under his tutorledge and
guidance and with the oversight of Medgar Wylie Evers, the North Jackson
NAACP Youth Council would produce a mass movement and the most successful
boycott of a downtown district in the deep south. Only, Ida B Wells boycott
of Memphis in the 19th century can compare. Jackson. Ms' downtown folded and
has never reopened with its string of shops and department stores. This was
no easy work and like Medgar and so many others Hunter Bear was targeted for
death. He was seriously wounded by the southern racists in a freak car
accident (point of death), beaten a number of times in demonstrations but
refused to yield even from pressure within the struggle. Those years are
detailed in a book by Hunter Bear (John R Salter) entitled: Jackson,
Mississippi: An American Chronicle of Struggle and Schism. The book is out
of print, but should be in most college libraries. Today, Hunter Bear has
returned to his native land in the West and to his Native
roots to continue
organizing and building grass roots struggle and a new generation of
Hear him for he worthy to be heard.
Colia L. Clark
MARTIN LUTHER KING AND FOUR NATIVE RIGHTS ACTIVISTS -- INCLUDING
MYSELF -- HONORED BY NATIONAL INDIAN GAMING ASSOCIATION (INDIAN
COUNTRY TODAY, JANUARY 16, 2012)
Thanks very much indeed
to Ernest Stevens, Jr. and NIGA (National Indian Gaming
Association) for honoring Dr King and the four Native civil
rights activists and leaders. I'm greatly pleased to be
included in this group, some of whom I've met and with whom
I've worked at various points. Hunter Gray (John R Salter,
ANNOUNCEMENT NOTE BY HUNTER BEAR:
The new enlarged and
updated edition of my book, JACKSON MISSISSIPPI: AN AMERICAN
CHRONICLE OF STRUGGLE AND SCHISM, is now fully available for
purchase. The publisher is Bison Books/University of
The initial Introduction in the two earlier editions has been
replaced by one written by me: "On The River Of No Return." This is, in
many ways, a large, additional chapter [about 9500 words] which
up-dates Mississippi, discusses our family's always
interesting experiences since the first edition of JM appeared
in 1979, and contains supplemental autobiographical material. And, of
course, it also contains something of my reflections as a life-long
social justice organizer.
For Eldri and the Family -- truly a Golden Horde
And in memory of Doris and Ben Allison and Medgar Wiley Evers
Thus this will likely be my basic
autobiographical memoir. As a corollary to that, however, I must
say that my health is fine.
The University of Nebraska Press is one of the largest
university presses in the country.
Here is their announcement of Jackson, Mississippi: (Click on
the photo and it'll get bigger.)
Hunter Bear (Hunter Gray / John R. Salter,
Depicted on the cover of this new and
of my book, is our Woolworth Sit-In, May 28 1963, at Jackson. This was the most
violently attacked sit-in during the 1960s and is the most publicized. [Recently, many
"end-of-the-Century" photo collections have carried large renditions of it.]
A huge mob gathered, with open police support and, while the three of us sat there
for three hours, I was attacked with fists, brass knuckles and the broken portions of
glass sugar containers, and was burned with cigarettes. I'm covered with blood
and we were all covered by salt, sugar, mustard, and various other things. Seated,
left to right, are myself, Ms. Joan Trumpauer (now Mulholland), and Ms. Anne Moody.
Other sit-ins -- some in a split-off section and some briefly with our heavily targeted
part -- were Mr. Memphis Norman (himself brutally struck and kicked unconscious), Ms.
Pearlena Lewis, Ms. Lois Chaffee, Mr. James Beard, Mr. George Raymond, and Mr. Walter
Williams. Dr. A.D. Beittel, President of Tougaloo College, and himself a much
older man, joined us at the conclusion of the affair.
See our two full website pages on the
I wrote this book -- my basic work
on the Movement in Jackson -- with the greatest care, from my
own very clear recollections re consistent and pervasive personal
involvement at every step of the way. [And those recollections remain
precisely and indelibly engraved in my mind to this moment.] I utilized
a host of primary documents [some of which are in my "collected papers"
and some of which remain with me personally.] I did a great deal of
careful cross-checking on certain points with other people who were, in
various ways, involved in our effort [e.g., Attorney William M. Kunstler]. I
included nothing in the book that could not be backed up by documents
and the confirmation of other knowledgeable persons. And the book, very
well reviewed, has never been challenged in any factual or thematic
sense. [Hunter Gray/Hunter Bear/John R. Salter, Jr.]
My book first appeared in 1979 and was later reissued
as a slightly expanded paper edition in 1987. All told, it drew over three dozen
very positive reviews. A few excerpts:
Jessica Mitford called it "An excellent book
about Jackson...A thrilling first-hand account."
James W. Silver [author of
Mississippi: The Closed Society]: "I was so impressed with his book,
Jackson, Mississippi: An American Chronicle of Struggle and Schism,
that I purchased copies for my three children born in Mississippi . . .Of course
I knew about his courageous course at Tougaloo College long before that. . .He
is unquestionably a rare find who combines dedication with an exceedingly
UMOJA: A SCHOLARLY JOURNAL OF BLACK STUDIES
-- J.S. Himes:
"Jackson, Mississippi is a gold-mine of raw data..."
Anne Braden in Southern Fight-Back (Southern
Organizing Committee for Economic and Social Justice) termed it "...an invaluable
study in how community movements are built and how they can be thwarted -- in this case,
by, among other forces, the federal government."
Jim Woodward, Socialist
Monthly Changes (International Socialists): "Salter explains
how the Jackson movement was built. . .and how it was derailed. He blames
the demise of the movement on the national office of the NAACP and the Kennedy
administration. . . The point is not that no gains were made in Jackson in
1962-63. While the actual settlement with the city was meager, cracking
the barrier of fear in the Black community was a substantial accomplishment.
The point is that the Jackson movement was prevented from reaching its potential
-- by people who were supposedly its friends and allies. Jackson, of course, was
not the first place in history this has occurred -- and it won't be the last.
But if we are to learn from the past, we had better understand what has
happened. Salter's book is an excellent place to start in studying the
civil rights movement, for it tells us not only what went wrong, but also what
was right. That part of the story is as inspiring as it is fascinating."
". . .a fascinating
account of the Jackson movement of 1962-63 by its chief strategist and
organizer." John Dittmer in The Civil Rights Movement in America
[Charles W. Eagles, editor, Jackson and London: The University Press
of Mississippi, 1986.]
In Win Magazine, Clyde R. Appleton wrote:
"This book should be read. It should be studied. There are lessons
here for everyone who has been, is, or will be taking part in the people's struggle for
peace and justice."
Mississippi: An American Chronicle of Struggle and Schism, is a peerless
account of the Jackson movement and its inner workings." Reed Massengill
in Portrait of a Racist: A Revelatory Biography of Byron de la
Beckwith, Written By His Own Nephew [New York: St. Martin's Press, 1994.]
Perk Perkins in Sojourners said,
"Salter's closeness to the struggle and his demythologizing impulse give the book its
power and drama...paints a graphic picture of the struggle for freedom."
Neil McMillen (History, University of Southern
Mississippi), said in The Journal of Mississippi History, "No other study
yet in print so carefully details the inner life of a local protest movement...written by
a thoughtful activist who recognizes the value of reasoned discourse."
Joseph R. Hacala, S.J., writing in Best Sellers said,
"A moving and contemporary account...vivid, stirring."
Alene Jones [Texas Christian University] in Explorations
in Sights and Sounds : "...fascinating book...excellent...written in a
thorough and logical manner...this book will be profitable to students in a variety of
professions...I strongly recommend that this book be read by people in general and by
blacks in particular."
James Loewen, author of Lies My Teacher Told Me and Sundown Towns: "Your
book is splendid."
Jay Weinstein, in Social Forces:
"In Jackson, Mississippi, John Salter provides a sympathetic, carefully
reasoned, and highly readable first-person sociological account of the events surrounding
Evers' murder and its actual and symbolic connections with this transition in the Civil
Rights Movement. Salter skillfully details the roles played by key actors and
organizations -- including his own role as a participant and observer."
Sarah Cooper, in Wisconsin Magazine of History:
"Activist and sociologist John R. Salter, Jr., has written a first-rate,
firsthand account of one of the major grass-roots struggles of the southern Civil Rights
Era: the Jackson movement of 1961-1963, which undertook to desegregate public
facilities and win decent treatment for the city's black residents...Salter suggests,
however, that it is not the vacillation of the Jackson moderates, but the insidious
pressure of the national NAACP leadership in New York and the shadow of the Kennedy
Administration that ultimately accounts for the dissolution of the movement after Evers'
Vinton Prince, Jr. in The Journal of Southern
History: "Scholars interested in the Civil Rights Movement during the
early sixties will find John R. Salter, Jr.'s, Jackson, Mississippi esssential
reading. He conveys the courage of the demonstrators, the fury of the mob, and the
pervasive sense of hate in Jackson extremely well. Less exciting, but more valuable
for historians, are his comments on the internal workings and strains of the Jackson
In Southern Exposure, Frank Adams said,
"Salter offers a blow-by-blow account of a movement and its destruction which will be
difficult to refute. In the final analysis we learn that when the politics of
civil rights took precedence over civil action, then Evers, Salter, King, and, tragically,
Jackson's black community's struggle for freedom became expendable. As a book for
organizers, Salter's book deserves a place beside Alinsky's more publicized Rules for
Radicals or the lesser-known classics Tin Horns and Calico by Henry
Christian, Heroes and Heretics by Barrows Dunham, or the recent novel by John
Nichols, The Milagro Beanfield War..."
David Ranney, in Monthly Review: "Salter
lets the story unfold for the reader in a distinctively low-keyed and insightful way.
He lets us in on his thoughts and feelings concerning the hopeful/terrible events
exploding around him...In many ways, Jackson, Mississippi offers us hope
through its demonstration of the ever present potential of a blossoming of a movement of
oppressed peoples. Nothing could be quite as dismal as the picture Salter paints of
Jackson in the fall of 1961. "Mississippi," he says, "was functioning
in the purest and most cold-blooded sense of the word as a garrison state that viewed
itself not only as being prepared for war, but as already fighting a war."
...Salter's story suggests a path...The left today would do well to consider this path
And in Social Development Issues (University
of Iowa), Gary Lowe: "Salter's book is not splashy. He quietly tells of
the evolution of a very vital and dangerous effort to create social change. As a text/case
book for community organization, Salter's book is of great value. . .After all is said and
done, Salter emerges with hope, and so might we all."
FROM AMAZON: [Professor
Samuel Friedman, author of Teamster Rank and
File: Power, Bureaucracy, and Rebellion at Work and in a Union --
followed by David Fields, a union organizer.]
we need to know
The Civil Rights Movement was an effort
to save the American soul from a sordid history of racism. Heroes like the
author of this book risked their lives many times over, with only partial
success. This book tells of one of the major struggles during this
period--that in Jackson, MS--and of how the movement was weakened and
betrayed by liberals like John and Robert Kennedy. It is a useful reminder
for those who hope that liberals will solve current problems. Then and now,
a much more far-reaching and radical change is needed. Salter shows this
through the history he tells--and also shows how the ideas and courage of
"plain folks" hold out hope for the needed changes.
I recommend that everyone read
this. And show it to your kids or parents!
personal tale of hope., July 27, 2001
John Salter, an intelligent and provocative
leader of just causes wrote this personal memoir of his work in Jackson
Mississippi with Medgar Evers, the citizens of
that town, and their struggle for equality in that embattled era. Mr.
Salter took the struggle into his home, his school, and the community
out of sympathy for the students he worked for. He is the person that is
portrayed as the "mustard man" in news photos as he was covered
and his own blood by white racists
while in sitting on a stool in a diner in solidarity for equal rights
with his black students.
Mr. Salter is a gifted writer.
This well written book reads like a novel. He paints a vivid
picture of that grey time, but injects hope for all of us this account.
Essential reading for anyone
interested in United States History and in the struggle for equal rights
throughout the world.
[John R Salter, Jr] following a serious multi-police
beating, Jackson Mississippi, June 13 1963.
NOTE BY HUNTER BEAR:
Scott Winter is an old friend -- who took several of my classes
[including Honors courses] at the University of North Dakota. He is now
on the Journalism/Mass Communications faculty at the University of
Nebraska. He has kindly passed on some good words from Adam Nossiter,
New York Times, and author of the excellent book, Of Long Memory:
Mississippi And The Murder of Medgar Evers. [ Nice to see kind words on
a rather cold and rainy Idaho morn -- with some snow coming.] My long
website page on Medgar and our historic Jackson Movement is one of the
most consistently visited pages on our Hunterbear website.
I forgot to send you a note earlier
this semester. I had Adam Nossiter speak in my Journalism 101 class in
September. Do you remember him? He researched and wrote a Medgar Evers
book. He's with the New York Times again, working as a correspondent in
New Orleans. He wrote great stuff during hurricane Katrina. I was really
impressed by him. I mentioned your name to him in front of the class and
he said "Sure, I know of John Salter. He's a great man who did great
things in Jackson, and wrote an amazing book about it." He clearly used
the book as a key resource, along with his interviews and court documents.
Anyway, 120 journalism freshmen got a dose of facts about poverty in the
Deep South and it was empirically the best day of class all year.
Take care of yourself,
(photo of Adam in my class attached.)
Lecturer and Recruiter
College of Journalism and Mass Comm
University of Nebraska-Lincoln
AUTHOR'S BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH (2012) PLUS
MY AUGUST 2012 PIECE: "PROGRESS: A MOSTLY DEEP SOUTH TALE"
This is a veteran Organizer's book -- by a
life-long activist organizer and sociologist -- and an extremely
detailed first hand account of one of the major Southern civil
rights movements of the 1960s: the Jackson Movement of 1962-63
which burst forth in the very heart of the hard-core white
supremacist/segregationist resistance. Among the vast number
of repressive and often bloody measures levied against the Jackson
Movement by Mississippi, was the murder of NAACP Field Secretary,
Medgar W. Evers.
John R. Salter Jr., an American Indian who
grew up in Northern Arizona, and who now identifies himself as
Hunter Gray, is a lifetime activist deeply committed to civil
rights, Native rights, labor unionization, and civil liberties.
Salter came to Tougaloo College, just north of Jackson, Mississippi,
as a teacher in 1961. He became the advisor to the Jackson Youth
Council of the NAACP and from 1962 through 1963, was the primary
organizer of the Jackson Movement, working closely with Medgar W.
Evers and also with SNCC and CORE.
Salter was chair of the Movement's Strategy
His book, Jackson Mississippi, is the most
detailed account of any major Movement of the 1960s.
The Jackson Movement was the largest
grassroots upheaval in the history of Mississippi -- and one of the
major Movements of the 1960s. It was a massive non-violent struggle
which, staunchly and courageously, incurred extremely brutal
repression from all levels of Mississippi government and the white
supremacists. It was during this struggle that Medgar Evers was
murdered. The Jackson Movement's examples of martyrdom are many
Salter, himself, was beaten badly and
arrested on a number of occasions -- and very severely injured
Salter (Gray) remained very active in a
number of social justice movements from the 1960s to the present in
the South and in other parts of the country. His book also provides
the brief essence of those endeavors. Among other campaigns, he
organized civil rights movements in the Klan-infested and
poverty-stricken Northeastern North Carolina Black-Belt counties as
a full time civil rights field organizer; directed large scale
community organizing on the turbulent Chicago South/Southwest Side;
was director of social justice activities for the Roman Catholic
Diocese of Rochester, New York; and served as chair of the Native
American Community Organizational Training Center out of Chicago.
In 1978, Salter (Gray) and his wife, Eldri,
returned to the Southwest where he taught at Navajo Community
College (now renamed Dine' College) and organized anti-uranium
endeavors throughout the region until the couple moved to Grand
Forks, North Dakota. Gray taught in the American Indian Studies and
Honors departments at the University of North Dakota until his
retirement in 1994 and was the organizer of several Indian rights
campaigns in the Northern Plains. Now residing in Pocatello, Idaho,
Gray continues his involvement in eliminating racial and other
negative prejudice and discrimination and frequently writes on
matters of social justice community organizing and civil liberties.
He has received a number of
significant awards for his social justice and organizing work. In
2005, he was honored with the Elder Recognition Award by Wordcraft
Circle of Native Writers and Story Tellers.
His large social justice website is Lair of
www.hunterbear.org He is a member of the National Writers
A MOSTLY DEEP SOUTH TALE (HUNTER GRAY/JOHN R SALTER JR)
In the final days of August, 1961, Eldri and I -- just
married up in Superior, Wisconsin -- left my family home at
Flagstaff, Arizona en route to Mississippi. I had as my vehicle
the 1957 Arizona champion drag strip car, a Chev Bell Air. My
brother had gotten that some way, couldn't keep up the payments,
and Dad took it over. Normally, a cautious driver, the racy
vehicle with surrealistic designs on its doors, did something to
him. And he loved to drive it 90 mph in second gear -- and 120
in high.The term was not in vogue back in those days but people,
including much impressed students of his, who witnessed this
would certainly have noted it in our times as "awesome". Before
long, though, he got something else and passed the Champ on to
me -- always a pretty sedate guy at the wheel. We were pulling
a long U-Haul trailer, covered by a tarp.
The closest I'd ever been to Dixie was extreme northwest
Texas and northern Oklahoma. It was clear, from central Texas
onward, that it was going to be, for us anyway, an adventure:
increasingly hot, humid; and vastly more Black people than I'd
seen anywhere before, even in the Army. My rural Northern
Arizona accent -- sometimes termed "Highland South" by linguists
-- seemed somewhat anemic compared to those we now began to
Just inside the Louisiana line, on a conventional two
lane highway, we stopped at a rural gas station. The owner, who
hustled over, was a rather heavy Anglo, maybe about 40. He was
genial. His son, mid-teens, was sitting on a chair in front
happily strumming a guitar. It was a pleasant, folksy little
When he had filled our tank and I was handing him cash,
he asked where we were going.
"Jackson," I told him.
He nodded approvingly but -- but then went on with one
of the cruder "jokes" I'd ever heard. Smiling he said, "How in
the Hell can the Kennedys get a man on the moon when they can't
get a bus load of n_____ers across Mississippi?" -- a reference
to the Freedom Rides which had been much in the news earlier in
Poker faced, we said nothing, collected our change, and
At about 2 a.m., with mists rising like ghosts all
around us, we hit the very long bridge across the very long and
wide River -- pointed directly into Vicksburg, Mississippi. At
the end of the bridge, armed border guards wearing wide-brimmed
hats, emerged from the darkness and looked us over carefully.
One pulled back the tarp on our trailer, checked the routine
items inside. Another asked, "Where y'all headed?"
This was not the point to say we were going to Tougaloo,
the Negro college just north of Jackson, and that we thought we
might well become involved in the incipient civil rights
movement in the state. Instead, pragmatically, and figuratively
tossing my old Explorer Scout code into the river below, I
muttered that we were going to Birmingham to see my uncle. [And
I did indeed have an uncle in that city.]
They collected a one dollar toll and with a pro forma,
"Welcome to Miss-sippi," waved us into the Closed Society.
Tougaloo had promised us on-campus housing but that was
filled up. They found a temporary place for us on the edge of
Lamar Avenue, near all-White Millsaps College, with a Black
neighborhood right across the street. But we were soon evicted
from that a day after we had two Tougaloo students over for
supper. The college then found us another place, on a sort of
almost low-income White street, Bailey Avenue. We had Black
friends over to that one but they slipped in and out at night.
Early on, the Mississippi State Sovereignty Commission began
surveilling us, even following Eldri, who was pregnant with
Maria, in a big white car with a long aerial when she walked up
several blocks to a small grocery store.
Bailey Avenue saw the death one night of our Arizona
Champ. It was parked on level turf, right in front of our
house. We had gone to bed but, before I slipped off into sleep,
I inexplicably arose, partially got dressed, and went out and
put the car into neutral gear. The emergency brake was rather
poor but, as I've noted, everything was level turf. Eldri was a
little puzzled at my action, which I couldn't quite explain, but
we were soon asleep.
We were awakened in the middle of the night by a very
loud crash immediately outside. Turned out that a drunk driver,
coming up Bailey Avenue which was lined with parked vehicles,
crashed directly into ours. If it hadn't been in neutral, he
would have been killed. My car, smashed, was up on a neighbor's
lawn. We immediately replaced it with a brand new litle "robin's
egg blue" AMC Rambler. When we were at the junkyard to take a
last fond look at the Champ, we were approached by a man from
nearby Rankin County very closely resembling the
years-later Boss Hogg of the Dukes of Hazard. He was friendy,
interested in the car's history, and I think he took the remains
of the Champ for whatever purposes.
Quite soon after the Champ died, we had dinner at
Tougaloo with good friends, the Zunes family. I recited the
events of that night and the small family -- John, Helen, and
little Stephen -- listened raptly. They found it all very
strange. But actually Eldri and I did not.
Soon thereafter, we moved on-campus.
The Blue Rambler itself died in a famous wreck -- a few
days after Martin King and some of his advisors had ridden in it
-- on June 18, 1963, on Hanging Moss Road on the north edge of
Jackson. It was totaled. I was severely injured and almost
killed, as was my colleague, Ed King.
Much happened with us and everyone and everything else
in the six years we spent in Dixie -- years forever contained
deeply and pervasively within us. Two of our four children were
born there; and, almost twenty years later, in early January,
1981, our oldest son, John, was with me when we left the Navajo
reservation in our big yellow Chev pickup -- with McKinley
County, New Mexico plates -- for Jackson. There I was scheduled
to do a very extensive oral history interview with Jon Jones of
the State Department of Archives and History. Normally, when
coming from the west, we went to the Magnolia State by way of
Oklahoma City and Memphis but this time we were taking the
original trail that Eldri and I had followed so long before.
The conventional two lane had been replaced ages ago by an
Just inside the Louisiana line, I glimpsed, through a
few trees, a service station on the old, original road and
pulled into it. It didn't quite register until we were right
close -- and I realized it was the same station of long,
long ago. It was a little more worn, as was the very same
owner, who came, a little more slowly than before, to us. His
son and the guitar were obviously long gone.
The man was initially not genial, but rather cold.
John, closest to him, was 15 and we had a big feather hanging
conspicuously from the inside mirror bracket. I don't think he
really saw me that well or, at that point, noted my 45/70 Marlin
lever action rifle in the cab's gun rack. (I only have very
traditional firearms.) It occurred to me that he might think we
were Hippies -- not always popular in the rural grassroots
anywhere in those days. He went to the back of our vehicle to
fill it -- but there he had to see our bumper sticker, "MICMAC
INDIANS TRAVEL MORE."
When he returned, this time to my window, he was
extremely cordial. And he asked, as he had almost twenty years
before, where were we headed.
And, as per the old script, I said, "Jackson."
But there was no joke -- not this time, not now.
I gave him a friendly, cursory wave and, smiling, he
reciprocated. John and I drove on.
There were no guards on the Mississippi end of the long
Hunter Gray [Hunter Bear]
HUNTER GRAY [HUNTER BEAR/JOHN R SALTER JR]
Mi'kmaq /St. Francis
Abenaki/St. Regis Mohawk
Protected by NaŽshdoŽiŽbaŽiŽ
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