Interview with Tom Wicker
QUESTION 14
INTERVIEWER:

Bobby Seale seemed to be a sign of hope I think from reading your book. What was your reaction to him when he came to the prison and what subsequently happened?

TOM WICKER:

Well Seale in 1971 was a much more prominent political figure than he is now. In fact, he's not at all prominent now as far as I know. But then--

INTERVIEWER:

Can you start it again, we don't need to know about him now, just back then.

TOM WICKER:

Right, well, I understand, but you got to understand that there are people who don't know even who Bobby Seale is, is what I was trying to say. Well, when Bobby Seale came to the prison, a lot of people today might not understand the extent to which he was really a prominent figure then and someone that the inmates looked up to and waited for and hoped to have from him the kind of words and the kind of leadership that would resolve their situation. But in fact, ah, Bobby Seale, precisely because he was a prominent figure then, he had a constituency to protect. It wouldn't have done him any good as a political figure to have come in there and made a fireball speech urging these inmates to hold out to the end, to get killed. It wouldn't have done him any good with his own people, and so, in effect, when he came there, ah, he too became something of a voice of moderation to the inmates. I think he disappointed the inmates in that he didn't show them the way out or anything, but he couldn't. And some of our observer group who knew him and who were more into leftist politics and so forth also pinned great hopes on Bobby Seale, I don't make any claim to being prescient, but I never really did very much because I, I couldn't see what he could do that we couldn't do. In fact, it seemed to me that there were a lot of things that he couldn't do that perhaps we could. And, but he at least came and he went in there and he talked to the inmates, and he left and was coming back, he was on the way back to the prison for a second visit when he heard I believe it was on the radio, heard the news of the attack on the prison and, and didn't come back. So Seale made good--good faith efforts, there just wasn't much he could do, or anyone else.

INTERVIEWER:

OK, good, thank you.

INTERVIEWER:

OK, that'll do it.