Interview with Oscar Fendler
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QUESTION 8
INTERVIEWER:

Can you tell me about how people were evicted because of the Triple A?

OSCAR FENDLER:

Oh, now we're getting in, the, the eviction thing that happened there. They didn't need as many sharecroppers, workers on there. You cut down a third of their production and with that, so it means you could do with a third less of your labor force. And they, they didn't, Lee Wilson, never, as far as I can remember, ever bodily ever moved anybody off the farm, but they just let them know that it might be better if he looked elsewhere, you know, and they'd cancel his debt and, and let him go. And I'd, I'd say a great number of them sharecroppers were moved or voluntarily moved themselves. I can't remember in my representing them that we ever filed a suit to remove one. I don't think we did. Other, other, others did it, but now they had provisions in that Triple A thing, you couldn't move them until you show they were a detriment to themselves or to the community or to the landowner, threatening the landowner, before you could do it. There's an anecdote on that if you'd like to hear it.

INTERVIEWER:

Sure.

OSCAR FENDLER:

Two of them. These are personal experiences as a lawyer. This happened in maybe '34, '35. An old, black couple came in. He must have been in his seventies, and she was close. Their landlord here in Blytheville, was not even a plantation guy. He was a tenant for somebody else, had used them as sharecroppers. And they were to get maybe the fruits of five acres after the cotton was laid by July. This fellow picked a argument with him to get him to move off. He had to do something to justify kicking him off, getting his crop. And it came to be about threatening to move him off. I told him not to leave. And so he went back and the next word I had he was dead. His landowner had gone and picked a fight with him, picked up a brickbat and crushed his skull. And of course, the widow comes to see me. And so I represent the widow in the courts. And these are blacks. Well, I tried my best to get him prosecuted and sent to penitentiary for murder or manslaughter. I couldn't, I couldn't get the prosecuting attorney to do anything with prosecuting him, finally they prosecuted him. It only took a few minutes and of course they turned him loose. I went ahead as a young lawyer and I sued him for her part of the crop and everything. The jury stayed out and not over, not over thirty minutes and came back and held for the landlord. And this poor little lady wasn't entitled to any part of the crop. That's one incident. There must have been numerous similar to that. It went on, that didn't get in the courts. The other one was you had to have a reason before you could move somebody, a victim. I had wanted to prosecute a case, just to get trial experience. See I'm, I'm just a youngster, in those days I'm twenty-five, maybe, something like that. So the prosecuting attorney says, "Here, you can prosecute this case." So I prosecuted it. The landlord put him, I talked to him and put him on as a witness about he accused his tenants of stealing corn from him, from his barn. It wasn't long before I saw that he framed the tenant. He wasn't guilt of anything. He just wanted to get rid of him. I tried the case and the jury stayed, oh, the jury didn't stay out fifteen minutes and they, they acquitted the tenant. See, that's the opposite side of the coin. The jury, that, that, that tenant was white. If he'd have been black I'd have lost it without any doubt.