Interview with Hodding Carter III
QUESTION 6
INTERVIEWER:

CAN YOU GO INTO THE FORMATIONS OF THE CITIZENS' COUNCIL A LITTLE BIT MORE A—IN TERMS OF THE ORGANIZATION ITSELF AND HOW THAT CAME ABOUT?

Hodding Carter III:

The decision came down in May 1954 saying that segregation was on its face unconstitutional. Tut Patterson, who was then a farmer in Sunflower County, went out and had a talk with God one day and God told him that he had to do something about this unnatural mixing of the races which was getting ready to happen. And so Tut decided that what was needed was an organization of responsible, in quotation marks, and respectable, in quotation marks, establishment figures in every community and county in the state to see to it that agitators and wrong thinking whites and blacks who got out of line would be instructed in the error of their ways, either by economic pressure by the maintenance of the laws which kept them in place, or if necessary by other means though that was always minimized in the official rhetoric. His intent was helped a great deal ideologically by a little pamphlet written by, god help us, a Yale law graduate, whose name, a Yale graduate, whose name was Judge Tom Bratty, who wrote a book called which in effect was the—I started to say refined although that'd be a joke. It was the clear statement of segregationist belief and a call to arms against this decision which would imperil the blue-eyed, blond-haired young girl who represented the finest of white society and set loose the animal which represented the basis of black society as the judge saw it. And became for the Citizens' Councils the bible, and the Judge became their favorite speaker for some time. In any case, in Indianola, Mississippi in 1954 that summer a group of men, lawyers, bankers, farmers got together and organized the first Citizens' Council under Tut Patterson's prodding. The idea spread in that general state society because the people who formed that original one belonged to what is that extended fraternity of leadership in a rather small state which has contacts in, all over the state. So pretty soon there were Citizens' Councils in perhaps a half the st—counties in the state, not all. There were places that saw it as a delta, sort of bourbons plot. There were places that weren't ready to be stampeded, but soon enough there were councils.