Interview with Tom Wicker
QUESTION 6
INTERVIEWER:

Quinn had died, tensions had risen. Talk about why you decided to call Rockefeller.

TOM WICKER:

Well, we called Rockefeller on Sunday afternoon from the prison, and the riot had been going on since Thursday. I myself had been involved since Friday. And I think we all felt, the observers group, we all felt that the moment had come when the decisive step was going to be taken one way or another. Indeed we were right. It happened, and I'm pretty sure we know in retrospect that state officials had decided to retake the prison by force on Sunday afternoon. And our call to Governor Rockefeller stayed that off until Monday morning. Not any great gain but it, it, it shows that our sense of it was right. That that was the moment if somebody was going to do something it would have to be done. We all felt, we used the word to the Governor that if, if the prison was retaken by force, there would be a massacre. It, as it turned out there was a massacre. We were somewhat wrong. I think the observers all felt that the, and it's the commentary on us, we felt that the inmates would kill the hostages if they were threatened that way. They in fact didn't do it as you know.

INTERVIEWER:

Let me ask you that again. And it would be good if you didn't say that there was a massacre. So why did you decide to call Rockefeller?

TOM WICKER:

Well because we thought that the, the situation had reached a crisis. That in fact there was about to be an attempt to take the prison. We thought that there would be a lot of bloodshed. In fact we said to the Governor that if that happened, that would be a massacre. And his response was that basically that he sympathized with our position. He felt that everything had been done that could be done. He was very, if you, anyone who remembers Governor Rockefeller will remember his effusive manner. And he was very, thanked us greatly for our efforts and that sort of thing. But the net effect of it was that he felt everything had been done that could be done. He could not grant amnesty and in fact said that, "Even if I could, I wouldn't do it."** And he felt that he should not come to Attica which was the request we had made of him, the specific request. He thought that that wouldn't do any good. I still think that it would have. I never thought that Governor Rockefeller should come up there and involve himself with the inmates, in the same way that we observers had, but I did think that if he came there and talked to his own officials, to the prison officials, maybe met with a committee of the inmates outside A yard and so forth, something like that, that his presence, his show of interest, could have helped break the deadlock. I still think that. I still think that. Of course it's one of those things one will never know because it didn't happen.