Interview with Clay East
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QUESTION 8
INTERVIEWER:

OK, that's good. We'll talk about that some more a little later on, but that's good. Now, you were also going to tell me about how the croppers came to you for help, when the owners didn't share the triple A payments.

CLAY EAST:

Well, that's right, in a small township like that, the only—

INTERVIEWER:

Can you say, excuse me, can you say, in a small township like Tyronza?

CLAY EAST:

Tyronza Township, yeah. It was only—

INTERVIEWER:

Mr. East, hang on just a second, and I'm sorry to keep on interrupting you, but we just have to have a little space from the time that I stop talking to the time that you begin, because I'm not going to be here. This is your show; we don't want my voice on it. So, if you could start from the beginning and say, "In a small town like Tyronza," and then we'll just go on from there.

CLAY EAST:

Are you ready for—

INTERVIEWER:

Yes.

CLAY EAST:

In a small town like Tyronza, it was called Tyronza Township, there was only two branches of law, that was the JP's and the constable, so I was constable elected, and then I was appointed by the sheriff as a deputy, and I was appointed by the mayor as a marshal, so I was really the law, and people come to me when they needed help. Wasn't anyone else to go to. So that's when I wrote to Washington, and told them what was happening down there, that landowners, or a lot of them, was keeping all of that money, and we wanted kind of a, some kind of understanding about it. So they sent a man down there called Green, from Washington, and he came down there and said, asked me, well, he wanted to see me, 'cause I was the leader, and he asked me, "What is it you boys want?" And when I started to tell him about how these folks were being mistreated, he told me he was only interested in violations of this Acreage Reduction Program. He said that he didn't, at that time he didn't know of it or not, I told him, "I'll bring you up. Come here in the morning and I'll bring you up a list of violations." So, when he got there the next morning, I'd got out that day, I only had a short time, and got eight of these different farms that had so many houses the year before and less this year, less tenants, and so forth. He told us, he had the commissioners with him when he came in there, and I told him I'd give him the violations, so he had the country commissioners with him and they was the landowners. He told them, after he'd read this thing I'd gave him, this was all typed off, eight separate violations there, farmers names and their tenants and everything on it. So he read, he read these things, and about the first thing that he read off was Old Man Sloan, I can't remember his name, I mean, his first, given name, but the way he talked, they was really scared, they thought he was going to do something. He turned right 'round then and goes to Memphis, and he had a Commercial Appeal reporter with him, he was there, and he went into Memphis and reported to the Commercial Appeal that they found no violations, so that just left us with nothing to go on. I might say, then, he didn't mention to me that he was going, or anything, but Mitch got a group together and went to Washington, and he saw some of the legislators up there, and some of them were for him and the boys, the sharecroppers. They never did anything about it, they just let it ride, so I don't know how those folks ever got settled up on it. Some of the farmers were on the level and paid off, like they were supposed to, they...