Interview with William Bradford Huie


William Bradford Huie:

And uh, so, I called him and I said now this is the story in Mississippi, um, the boy who was killed over there, I said, "I have just found this and I want you to check it for me and tell me who it is." Uh, he was interested. About two hours later he called me and he was just overjoyed. And he says, "Goddamn Huie, that's the same damn nigger." I said, "That's that boy nigger's father." He said, "I've got the case in front of me," he says, "The most fool case of killing two Italian women during a, air raid we ever had. We hanged him in Langert." And uh, so uh, he said, I said, "Well, send me the case." And then I said, "Now listen General, let's just wait a minute." I said, "Now this boy in Mississippi never knew his father." I said, "This hasn't got anything to do with this case over there, and it doesn't excuse anybody from murder or anything of this sort." Uh, so I don't think any of this should be, I said, "I don't know whether I'm going to write the story or not," because I said, "I don't think this ought to be revealed." So [cough] we sit down down on it. Well, at any rate, later the story crept out, because he gives it out. It's too good. He has to tell Senator Eastland and so forth and they call a press conference and so forth. But, meanwhile, I went to Mississippi, and I have always proceeded on—-in a long reportorial life as a reporter in the South and around the world, whenever two men take a third man out at night, midnight and kill him there are no innocent bystanders to tell you what happened. The victim is dead. The only people who can tell you how and why that murder was committed are murderers. They're the only ones that can tell you; nobody else can tell you what happened out there. Therefore, I myself, never waste any time. I don't go to talk to cops, and I don't get statements from public officials or anything like that. I go to the murderers and try to make a deal, try to find some reason to tell—why'd you kill this man, and if you did or not, and so what. And if he's already been tried and found not guilty, it doesn't make any difference to me. I want to know the truth. See, I'm not in the law enforcement business. I'm just in the business of establishing truth wherever possible. And I have to believe that the truth is good. There are people who argue with you, that it's not good. Uh, a very brilliant black woman whom I admire a lot, argued that way with me on the Till case after I had written it. But in any case, I went to Mississippi. I didn't go to see the murderers. I went directly to the—all the attorneys in that area, in, in that little town, had defended, volunteered to defend them at their trial. I went to the one that looked the most prosperous and who represented the establishment, and whom I knew was on the loan committee at the bank, and who the big uh, uh, equipment companies, farm equipment companies hired as their lawyer, and so forth. I went there, one—-early one morning, about 8:15. Almost didn't get there because I was driving from my home here, it took about four hours over there, and unfortunately I started pretty late at night. And they didn't have motels like we have now. They just had a bunch of tourist camps. And so about midnight I tried to find a place to sleep. Terrible. Finally had to sleep in some little old fleabag of a place, and I couldn't sleep, and I got up sick. And about 4:00 in the morning I thought, well, this idea never was any good anyhow. So I started back to Alabama. Then I got to feeling better and turned back around and went back to Sumner, Mississippi and got in there at about 8:15 in the morning. And I met at the law firm of Breeland and Whitman. Mr. Breeland was an old man. John Whitman was 36. Well-born, the Breeland family is well-known in Mississippi. And uh, so, John Whitten came in about 8:30. Now, I have tremendous advantage in talking to John Whitten, because I belong to the Lodge, and my family goes back, hell, his grandmother and my grandmother may have spent time together getting away from the fever when they were up in the Tennessee mountains in the summer, or something like that. Or maybe we belonged to the same fraternity or something like that, because—-and Johnny Whitten had been to Old to Miss—-the Old Miss law school …