Interview with James L. Hicks


James L. Hicks:

Well, you asked me about the case, the, I had covered the courts in many areas of this country, but the, the Till case was unbelievable, I mean I just uh, didn't get the sense of being in a court room uh, because uh, it was first place, segregated. And uh, the press itself was, the black press, sat at a bridge table uh, far off from the court. The jury itself plus the judge and whereas the uh, white press sat right under the judge and the jury. I, right up front at uh, a reserved section. We had a bridge table, and uh, I had the displeasure of seeing not only us and the boy's mother come down, they sat her there at the bridge table, with us, plus the United States Congressman, at that time, Diggs, he came down and uh, I was the one that got him in because uh, he uh, the sheriff wouldn't let him in. He had sent a telegram to the judge to say, I'd like to come down and observe this, um, to see the trial. The judge was the one white person that uh, he appeared to be fair minded. So that he wired Diggs back and hold him that come on down and you'll be welcome. Well there came a recess in court and uh, everybody went outside. The uh, whites went to the right side to wait till the court opened again. And the blacks went to the left side uh, so while we're out there standing, in the meantime the local people uh, who tried to get in, they had to stand back until the whites came in and filled up the place and they sat in the back of the courtroom. This court room was a uh, was a huge place compared to that town. Uh, it was probably the biggest building, certainly that in the section that I saw, was the biggest building in there. And uh, the the, ah, courtroom occupied more or less the whole floor. So uh, uh, when this when the people started coming, they fill up the white then the blacks would fill up what's left. When Diggs came down the room was filled. He couldn't get in. And uh, so he, at recess time he came by and he said uh, I knew him before so he said uh, Hicks, can you get into the courtroom. He said, I said yes I'm in there all the time but I was Jim-Crowed. And he said well look, I I would like to have this judge uh, give my card. Take my card up there and tell him uh, that uh, that I wrote to I wired him from Michigan, you see. So he gave me his card when the court opened I went straight up and started for uh the judges bench. He hadn't come in yet but on the way up to the bench, I was stopped by one of these veterans who had been deputized. And he said "where you goin nigger?" And uh, I said uh, "I'm going to see the judge." And I said there's ah, ah, I pulled open the ah, the ah, my coat pocket and there I had Diggs' card in it. I was going to hand it to the judge but uh, I mean O.K., he after me so I said you give it to him, them. So he said, just a minute, just a minute. He called another deputy over and this was, ah, it took place I wrote this, this was something that I never seen, ah, I'd never had really seen it before. He said to me, or he said to the deputy that he called over, he said, this nigger here said there's a nigger outside who says that he's a Congressman, and he has corresponded with the judge and the judge has told him to come on down and uh, he would let him in. He said, but uh, the uh, sheriff, won't let him in so he's sending his card up there so this guy said "A nigger congressman?" And he said, "that's what this nigger said. I said to myself my God, I have never seen anything like this in my life** and uh, we we we ah, so he went then to the sheriff and uh, the sheriff says I'll being him in here but I'm going to sit him at you niggers' table. And, I mean, ah, when he brought Diggs in, that's where he sat, right there at the table.